This Failed State Business

me and david simon! I know, the ubiquity is bothersome but bear with me.

I.
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez were kind enough to host me this morning on their show, Democracy Now!: Manan Ahmed on the Politics of US “Hysteria” over Pakistan

II.
The excellent UAE National gave me space to develop my argument about the Pakistani “failed state”: Legends of the Fail Manan Ahmed examines the decades-old tradition of experts predicting that Pakistan is sure to collapse any day now.

99 Replies to “This Failed State Business”

  1. It’s been a while since I read either but I found “A wounded civilisation” absolutely brilliant both for reasons of literary craft and content. Primed by that reading “An area of darkness” was easier to decipher despite what had at first blush seemed pettiness.

    It’s easy to like writers saying what you would (if you could) just as it is easy to defend the right of someone to hold opinions which are the same as yours.

  2. Q – ‘India: A Million Mutinies Now’ goes some way in redeeming Naipaul imo, I found it quite enjoyable and interesting, despite the authors creeping conservatism particularly towards anything seen as ‘Muslims fundamentalist’ or ‘anti-Brahmin’

  3. Thanks salman — good piece, although I cringe when anyone mentions naipaul & “area of darkness” and/or “India: A Wounded Civilization” in the way that the author does here…

  4. Pingback: Dear Spencer
  5. This is related to various comments made about East Pakistan. I think the discussion has somehow conflated two different issues; 1) the current failed state narrative and 2) an analysis of ethnic conflict within Pakistan based on the East Pakistan experience. I believe we need to decouple the two – here is why:

    The current orchestration of the failed state narrative by the Obama administration is very tactical and short-term oriented. It is an effort to apply public pressure on the Pakistani government to make it support the floundering war in Afghanistan by taking military action against the insurgents. There is very limited leverage that can be applied to Pakistan – about the only leverage left is aid money. The Pakistan aid bill has been in front of congress and the failed state narrative gathered steam in the last few months reaching a crescendo at the time of related congressional committee hearings in the last few weeks. Now that the hearings and the aid bill are done and whatever limited Afghanistan war support could be got out of Pakistan has been worked out, my prediction is that we will see very little further failed state discussion. It could rear its ugly head again if the situation on the ground in Afghanistan gets worse, which is quite possible.

    Re. the East Pakistan discussion. Of-course, the presence of genocide in Pakistan’s history does not have anything to do with future state failure, just as the history of Native American genocide has nothing to do with the potential for state failure of the United States – life is never fair. The East Pakistan discussion and more broadly a discussion on the history and potential future scenarios for ethnic conflict in Pakistan is an important discussion that should be carried out but it will not be a fruitful discussion if it is carried out within the context of the current tactical, narrowly focused, goal-oriented American orchestration of the failed state narrative.

    If we ignore the failed state narrative and focus on the potential for future ethnic conflict, then it is entirely appropriate to discuss the East Pakistan experience and draw conclusions about the future direction of the current military operations in the NWFP. While the current military operations are not ethnically directed, the potential exists for the war on the Taliban to morph into multiple ethnic struggles. Theories that this will lead to the further dismemberment of Pakistan (ala East Pakistan) are far-fetched. But such ethnic conflict could lead to large scale violence. A discussion on strategies for pre-empting this dynamic would be quite appropriate for folks with some empathy towards the Pakistani people.

  6. Qalandar, I think you are absolutely right about the distinction between pluralism and liberalism. From the tone of Spencer’s comment, I got the sense that he thinks Pakistani culture/society should reflect the values of US society. This is clearly problematic. If we use the example of gay rights, even in the US there are many states that are against the idea of gay marriage. Even president Obama has said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. To then expect an Islamic society (and one where the discourse is getting more religiously-oriented by the day) to be in favor of gay rights is foolish IMO. Much as we may want to see a liberal, secular Pakistan, we have to realize that it’s not going to get there right away and that Pakistani culture is different from Western/European culture. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that.

  7. Another “racist” criticism of The Washington Post.

    “Even without actually using the words “brutal” or “savage,” Hoagland successfully uses language to construct Afghan and Pakistani Muslim men as both: “The recent U.S. strategic review, … depict[s] the struggle in the desolate Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier as being rooted in fierce nationalism, the region’s ancient warrior culture, the failures of nation-building and the rebirth of jihadist terrorism.” Ancient warrior culture, huh? If that doesn’t convince you that these brown guys are also the bad guys, then what of “the desire of Pakistani and Afghan men to be left in peace to deal with their womenfolk as they see fit.”? Or “The savage misogyny and feudal fury of the Swat Valley are alien to modern, urban Turkey…” ? ”

    http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/a/3035/

  8. @ Akbar,

    “may be people should think carefully before lumping everybody with a “BEARD and Shalwar Kameez” as “Taliban” then Taliban with Al Quaida and then all of the above with a Global Muslim Caliphate from Spain to Indonesia. Now I understand that this thought of Muslim Caliphate taking the world over, kept GWB awake at night for 8 years”

    What? You mean to say, the threat of a global caliphate is not true? But I thought CAIR, MSA, and ISNA had “linkages” with Muslim Brotherhood, that has “linkages” Hamas & Hizbullah, and H & H is linked with AlQaida and Iran, and Alqaida with Taliban, and Taliban with ISI and JI&JUI etc, JI&JUI with other groups in Malaysia and Indonesia etc. ;-)

    “The MSA [Muslim Students Association] is in fact an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization, which has created a network of “front” groups to conduct a stealth jihad in America, including CAIR, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Society of North America. ” http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=32034

  9. “Afghanistan, 35 million-plus population, ravaged by thirty-plus years of war, without any infrastructure to speak of, one sort of very little urban presences, versus Pakistan, 175 million people, megacities, you know, at least some tradition of governance, a very fierce critical media”

    Heard your commentary on Democracy Now today. Yes Pakistan was built off of aid money sent to it by the US on behalf of the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan played a key role in the destruction of any and every means of peace and prosperity possible for the Afghans. For decades Pakistan supported, funded and trained the menace that is about to eat its master with the intention to gain control over Afghanistan. Growing up I’d hear my mother say one day these Gulbudin Hekmatyars and Sayyafs that Pakistan has created will destroy Pakistan itself one day. Unfortunately that is what has happened.

    If there is anything to be learned, it will be through Pakistan being held accountable for its crimes towards the Afghan people.

  10. “just about everyone agrees that the scope of Naxalite/Maoist activities has most certainly been widening year after year over the past decade; and in fact Maoist forces have already won one war against one South Asian government this decade.”

    In terms of the Maobaadis in Nepal:

    1. The Naxalites and Maoists are not the same thing, and having a slash in between them is not accurate. Not to deny that there are links, but people tend to conflate the two, and it is not true, as each is operating on very different terrains with diverse scopes (thank you, Pankaj Mishra et al for spreading the fear of the ‘red corridor supposedly running from India to Nepal!)

    2. The Nepali Maobaadis overthrew a monarchistic “government”, with much support from the population (something that nearly every non-Nepali–including the parachute journalists who were ‘covering’ the elections and transition to a federal government– has managed to miss or failed to observe). I don’t want to discount the guerrilla tactics and violence the Maobaadis used, but it’ also worth remembering that the majority of the 13,000 that were killed during the civil war were killed by the government army and security forces, not the Maobaadis.

    1. DesiItaliana: I certainly am not more sympathetic to monarchist forces in Nepal than to Maoist — my point is that from a Western perspective, the Maoist victory could cause concern were the circumstances different. Does anyone doubt that if it were 1981, there would be a lot more alarm bells at the prospect of a Maoist government in Nepal? In either case (Taliban or Maoists), the narrative drives “the story” at least as much as the facts on the ground do — thus I was disagreeing with those who seem to be suggesting that “the story” is simply a reflection of the facts on the ground.

      On (1), you are correct, that was sloppy on my part. The red corridor exists, but to the extent it is imagined as a single entity with a coordinated command and control structure, that isn’t so. But quite frankly, I have seen no evidence that the various Talibans running around in North-Western Pakistan are also a single, coordinated entity.

  11. Re: “The point is not that Islamism is truly anti-capitalist, but that it imagines itself to oppose forms of heteronomy characteristic of modern society.”

    Ah, I see. I agree with this.

  12. Re: “No medieval anti-semite ever dreamt of extermination of a people and no medieval pogrom ever attempted it (as Arendt, among numerous others, makes clear).”

    I completely agree — but the medieval history of anti-Semitism made Jews — as opposed to someone else — a candidate for extermination (as I said, Nazism was not reducible to those ancient archives/registers, even if it necessarily drew on them). The two are not the same, but that history made a certain group likely targets. It would have been very difficult for Nazism to turn on a ideology that held up Calvinists as the fount of all evil. I of course accept “the difference” that modern technology (that is, following Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”, thinking about this in terms of a mindset, and not simply as mere instrumentality).

    Re: “I don’t think you can get very far in understanding Nazism as a form of “imperialism” (unless by that you mean the “colonization” of Europe itself). On the contrary, Nazism had a strong anti-imperialist element, as Subhas Chandra Bose and numerous Iranian and Arab nationalists realized. Even the Japanese postured as liberators from the imperial yoke.”

    That is exactly how the Nazis themselves understood it — at least where “the East” was concerned. The Hitler/Himmler vision of German “settlers” all across the East, up to the Urals, and explicitly modeled on the American experience, is nothing if not colonial, in the sense that we have seen in North America, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. The mind-boggling numbers that would have been needed to be displaced or murdered make the experience more analogous to South Africa than the others, although theoretically quite comparable (of course, the context within which this was happening — the war — and the huge population, combined with the methods of industrial conflict, made this bloodier than anything seen before or since). In other words, I am entirely in agreement with those who have demonstrated that the Nazis introduced TO EUROPE methods that had previously been used, on a smaller scale, in Africa (including to exterminatory effect; the Germans themselves had all but wiped out the Herrero community in Namibia, to take just one example). Thus, you are probably correct that “[n]o medieval anti-semite ever dreamt of extermination of a people and no medieval pogrom ever attempted it” — but nineteenth century colonialists DID dream of exterminating entire people, DID attempt it, and DID succeed (the peoples were “out of the way”, in Africa, and have not had the same claim on the world’s sympathy that other victims, more like us, have had). The point isn’t that no distinction may be drawn, but to examine the history that that Europe’s twentieth century exterminatory manias were heir to. It would be quite an omission to not examine the role played by 19th century imperialists — given the nazis’ frank admiration for and imitation of these methods; nor was this a later development, as right from the days of Mein Kampf we see Hitler holding the American “solution” to the Native American “problem” as one that could be applied to Europe.

    On Bose, Iranian and Arab nationalists and Nazism, I remain highly skeptical that this says anything about the anti-imperialist content of Nazism; what it DOES testify to is that the enemy was a common one, namely Britain and France. After all, we wouldn’t say that Stalin’s alliance with Britain and America testified to Stalinism’s greater affinity for those countries than with Nazi Germany.

    [I suppose Nazism COULD have had an anti-imperialist element, if we take seriously the notion that every “volk” should be master of its own destiny. The problem was that very early indeed, it was clear that Nazism was not going to allow any other “volk” very much latitude, certainly not in the East. Leaving aside the ethical issues, this was obviously imbecilic, as the further Germany pushed into Slavic territory, the less reason anyone would have to cooperate with Germany, and the Nazis blew an opportunity to capitalize on anti-Stalinist sentiment. But as I read the record, this wasn’t due to the betrayal of the anti-imperialist element of Nazi ideology, but the result of a contradiction between two different tenets of that ideology, namely Lebensraum and the need to secure the utopian settler future for the German farmers/landholders who would supposedly colonize the East; and the right to “volk” self-determination that by implication non-German races would also aspire to. The latter remained a most under-developed aspect of Nazi ideology, let alone statecraft, and it is hard for me to take it seriously.]

    1. I can’t agree that Heidegger illumines much of anything with his category of “technology”. Again, I think there is alot more to learn and think about in the critical theory tradition of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Lukacs, and the Frankfurt School.
      I think the comparison of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question with America’s treatment of the American Indians is misleading in the extreme. We should leave such comparisons up to the likes of Ward Churchill. Similarly misleading are the claims about mass killing in the colonies. There isn’t a victimization contest here and a lot gets lost when things are compared that actually had very different underlying dynamics.
      I must disagree when you say, “we wouldn’t say that Stalin’s alliance with Britain and America testified to Stalinism’s greater affinity for those countries than with Nazi Germany.” I think in many ways there is much more in common between American and European-style social democracy and Stalinism than there was between Stalinism and fascism and would refer you to essays by Dan Diner to this effect.

    2. We certainly see things differently on Heidegger.

      I don’t believe the Nazis saw the final solution to the Jewish question as comparable to America’s treatment of Native Americans — as the situation in the East evolved, they saw the solution to the SLAVIC question as comparable to America’s treatment of Native Americans. There are two different questions here, one is the Nazi view of things — whatever one makes of it, they did draw inspiration from “settler colonial” paradigms; the second is whether their own paradigm did in fact conform to the same paradigm. There are many commonalities (speaking not just of America but of the other examples too, in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa; I suppose we might also want to think about the Argentinian active extermination of over a 100,000 native peoples during the 1830s), although, as I had said above, the large numbers involved and hence the scale of the operations, and the industrial mass production of death involved, mean that there is a difference in degree for sure, perhaps so large as to be a difference in kind.

    3. PS– the bit about Ward Churchill is a cheap shot. No one is playing cheap victimology here, there are many many serious thinkers, historians, and analysts who have drawn such comparisons (I prefer to go with Arendt rather than Ward Churchill, although she isn’t the only one). You say my claims about mass killings in the colonies are misleading, but do not explain how or why these are misleading (I note that I was rather careful, and restricted the examples to Africa — I deliberately excluded, e.g., India; and that is no coincidence: the conjunction of the scramble of africa with the rise of racially theories/sciences by the late nineteenth century made for a toxic mix). The point is not to draw a moral equivalence between x or y, but to trace the historical roots of Nazism; and there is a historical link to imperial practices — that doesn’t make it the same as imperialism, no worse than imperialism, or any such thing: it simply means that if we want to understand how we got to where we got to, the history of imperialism (especially in Africa, but also some other places) cannot be ignored. I fail to appreciate the reason for your defensiveness, as if any discussion of these links somehow diminishes the scale of Nazi horror.

    4. Re: “I don’t believe the Nazis saw the final solution to the Jewish question as comparable to America’s treatment of Native Americans — as the situation in the East evolved, they saw the solution to the SLAVIC question as comparable to America’s treatment of Native Americans.”

      The above was written in haste. The above is a reference to the situation once the War started; in Mein Kampf, of course, Hitler saw the Jewish question as comparable to the American Indian situation. And even after the war started, the prospect of a Jewish “mass reservation” was held out as long as the Nazis thought their victory over Soviet Russia was imminent (i.e. the reservation was planned to be established west of the Urals). Once it became clear victory would not be quick, and then that it likely wouldn’t occur, that’s when the “reservation” option was finally discarded and the mass extermination of Jews became completely organized and industrialized.

    5. What about the concentration camps for the Boers? Wouldn’t that also be a part of the story?
      I think your story about the “reservations” for Jews is simplistic. I’m not sure that Hitler was ever simply motivated by merely practical considerations (such as the duration of the war) to implement the Holocaust as the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.

    6. Adorno dispensed with Heidegger a long time ago, as far as I’m concerned. Certainly, in my opinion the critical dialectical tradition is far more conceptually rigorous, explanatory, and profound (without needing to call attention to its profundity a la the Sage of the Black Forest). But, as you say, we can agree to disagree on this.
      Okay. The Ward Churchill bit was a cheap shot and I’ll refrain from those in the future. My problem with the colonial genealogy of fascism is not that it diminishes the significance of the Holocaust, but that it obscures the distinctive character of anti-Semitism as an ideology and the Final Solution as an event.
      As for the simple question of treating populations as dispensable, that has deep roots in Britain and France and can be seen in the mass killing of the european working poor and New World slaves under the vagrancy laws, inhuman working conditions, etc., in the 17th and 18th century. So, I think it needs to be clarified what it is we are going to the colonies to explain.
      Regarding the native Americans, I think it is altogether misleading to isolate a certain admittedly barbarous and not-to-be-forgotten-or-diminished 19th and early 20th century history of brutality with the entirety of the American experience in this regard. I’m not saying you are doing this exactly, but I am just making my position clear. There was a great deal of inter-marriage and assimilation that no comprehensive history of the North American “encounter” can rightly deny. My own maternal grandmother’s grandmother was Cherokee. I don’t know the details of her story, but certainly the historical record shows innumerable native Americans entering into the mainstream of the American labor market and settled areas for essentially voluntary reasons. Those stories don’t fit into the defense-of-tribal-traditions-and-lands narrative of the identity historians, but is no less historical for that. And, I will say that I fundamentally agree with those europeans and Americans – people like John Locke and Benjamin Franklin – who considered it worthwhile to conquer America for liberalism.

    7. Re: “My problem with the colonial genealogy of fascism is not that it diminishes the significance of the Holocaust, but that it obscures the distinctive character of anti-Semitism as an ideology and the Final Solution as an event.”

      It does not; it simply recognizes that distinctive ideologies, that “newness”, is not creation ex nihilo. Even the Final Solution has a history, a genealogy (the Final Solution is an “event”, something new, and is of course not reducible to that genealogy). To take one example, as I mentioned earlier, the legacy of Christian anti-Semitism explains why Jews would be the “enemies” above all others for the Nazis (as opposed to Catholics). To take another example, the legacy of European imperialism and settler-colonialism helps explain how Nazism got to where it got to. It doesn’t get one all the way there, but I never said it did; that’s so obvious as to be banal.

      I think the fundamental disagreement between us on this point is that you seem to be suggesting that the legacy of imperialism and settler colonialism sheds NO LIGHT WHATSOEVER on Nazi practices, the Final Solution, etc. I read the historical record very differently (and my claim is rather modest on this point) — I might add that you have offered no narrative/argument/reasoning that would account for it, you simply have asserted repeatedly that it is misleading to adduce examples from that history. I repeat my earlier question: HOW is it misleading?

      Re: “What about the concentration camps for the Boers? Wouldn’t that also be a part of the story?”

      I certainly never claimed to be citing every relevant example. The Boers I did think of, but did not cite them for a rather banal reason: I am quite unfamiliar with that conflict, and thus stayed away.

      Re: “I’m not sure that Hitler was ever simply motivated by merely practical considerations (such as the duration of the war) to implement the Holocaust as the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”

      Two points:

      1. I obviously agree with you that Hitler was not “simply motivated by practical considerations” to kill millions of Jews — for the simple reason that absent a certain ideology, it could never have been necessary to kill millions of people in this manner.

      2. You misunderstand the point I am making: my point is that the Final Solution was — notwithstanding Nazi ideology — not the first resort of Nazism, but the last. I don’t think there is serious debate on this: the historical record is very clear that the Nazis preferred the emigration/reservation/Bantustan “solution”, and when that proved unachievable, decided to kill off all Jews.

      [Somewhat tangentially: (2) does not make the Nazis “less”, but in fact MORE atrocious in my eyes. If it is possible to “grade”, this admixture of instrumentality, one might even say the impersonal nature of the Final Solution, is even more de-humanizing than the sheer hatred that leads one to want to harm the other. With the latter, one has the dignity of an enemy; with the former, one is nothing, and may — to use Agamben’s formulation from Remnants of Auschwitz — be “killed without crime”; I’ve always found that more disturbing.]

    8. RE: “As for the simple question of treating populations as dispensable, that has deep roots in Britain and France and can be seen in the mass killing of the european working poor and New World slaves under the vagrancy laws, inhuman working conditions, etc., in the 17th and 18th century. So, I think it needs to be clarified what it is we are going to the colonies to explain.”

      I was not citing examples of “dispensable” populations, but of populations that needed to be eliminated for political ends: the German approach in Namibia was NOT to be indifferent to the fate of the Herrero — it was to KILL all the Herrero, including by poisoning their water supplies and starving them to death. In Argentina in the 1830s, concerned with the effect of so many indigenous peoples on the “blood” of the whites, the Argentine state basically actively wiped out the country’s native populations (to this day, Argentina is a lot more “native-free” than most other countries in Latin America).* To equate this with inhuman working conditions and vagrancy laws strikes me as morally obtuse.

      *[I will add an Indian example, although here there was no attempt at extermination. The British classified entire tribes as “criminal”, with the legal effect that the tribes’ “propensity” to crime could count against an accused in a court of law — even absent evidence of individual wrongdoing! This is astounding, and shows how far the racial sciences of the late-19th century had affected the British imperial project; a far cry indeed from the Indian-marrying nabobs of the 18th century Company, let alone from John Stuart Mill and Locke. This stigmatization and legal disability imposed on entire peoples was also applied to certain peoples in Africa by the British, and later on by the Germans as well in their short-lived colonies.]

  13. Dear Attiya: Do point me to the ‘authentic’ discussion of ideology in Marx so that I can purify myself. Unless, of course, I’ve already so corrupted myself with reactionary theories that I’m irredeemable.

    1. I can answer that – start with “The German Ideology,” then “The Poverty of Philosophy,” “Theses on Feuerbach,” and “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” – all as build-up to Capital, which is where Marx makes the argument upon which, in my opinion, his perspective stands or falls.

  14. Thanks for the Fuller link Akbar. This might be somewhat off-topic, but while there is a lot to commend in Fuller’s analysis, I do disagree with some points:

    1. Fuller criticizes the Obama Administration’s policy in part because the Afghanistan-Pakistan border cannot be sealed. But that argues in FAVOR of the Administration’s policy — i.e., one could just as easily argue that becuase the border is a joke, one can’t simply focus on the Afghan side and not look at the Pakistani side. [Stated differently, one can critique the drone attacks on the grounds of civilian casualties; or on the grounds that the tactics (e.g. drone attacks) might not serve the strategy (destroying Al-Qaida) — or that even if it does serve the strategy (and both the Administration and the Pakistani government seem to agree that it has put enormous pressure on Al Qaida/”foreign fighter”-types), it might well have the potentially dangerous side-effect of de-stabilizing Pakistan; but not on the ground that Fuller cites.]

    2. Fuller’s point about India being the biggest geo-political threat to Pakistan ellides the crucial question: i.e. is this NECESSARILY the case? For instance, Germany was clearly France’s biggest geo-political threat in 1914, and in 1939, but obviously not in 1959. Fuller seems to see the question of the threat posed by India in static/eternal terms. Just two days ago Zardari said he didn’t regard India as a threat to Pakistan — while one can pooh pooh this as the words of a weak civilian President under immense pressure from all quarters, he has been very consistent on this point ever since he took over the PPP. There is no reason to believe that the Pakistani military’s perception of threats to the country are the same as the civilians’, not to mention that within the “civilian” category one will find a great diversity of opinions.

  15. Here is an analysis by Graham E.Fuller (former Kabul CIA station chief)

    “The situation in Pakistan has gone from bad to worse as a direct consequence of the U.S. war raging on the Afghan border. U.S. policy has now carried the Afghan war over the border into Pakistan with its incursions, drone bombings and assassinations — the classic response to a failure to deal with insurgency in one country. Remember the invasion of Cambodia to save Vietnam?”

    1. So a former CIA man is to be heeded, but not the journalists of the New York Times?

    2. Spencer you write in an earlier post.
      “This does not mean that there aren’t good people working for the U.S. Government and military ”
      So here you have a person who served in area, knew languages , experienced the culture and is giving a very candid review of situation (eventhough I do not agree with all), Do you raed it in any leading news paper as it is so relevant to present situation. No , and that is my whole point!

    3. A claim such as you instance is not “news,” but opinion. I think it perfectly well represented on the editorial page and in the news magazines available in the United States. After all, the opinion he states is positively ubiquitous. One hears it everywhere. I hardly think it secret knowledge.

    4. “A claim such as you instance is not “news,” but opinion”

      What I meant was that Op-Ed pages of NYT/WA PO are filled with opinions from far less qualified people to comment on the situation.

  16. Spencer – your understanding of ideology and how it works is so simplistic as to be embarrassing. I would suggest that you go brush up on some of the excellent work done on ideology – I’d start with Gramsci, Stuart Hall, Laclau and Mouffe and then perhaps some Said. I know, I know – Said is ‘simplistic’. Perhaps we need to scrap all those classes in culture and imperialism/colonialism that have pushed forward our understanding of how consent for power is secured. Who needs all that complexity when we know that we can read a person’s politics into his/her identity. Ever hear the term ‘native informant’, or ‘collaborator’? You might want to look those up too. Who knows? they might help you nuance your rather bizarre argument(s). The devil, as they say, is in the details, and your series of baseless assertions strung toegther into a long paragraph deserves a more thorough debunking. Watch this space.

    1. Saadia: the fact that you take recourse to Gramsci, Hall, Laclau, betrays your own understanding of what “ideology” means because in Gramsci’s view ideology is an expression of “hegemony of the ruling class”–a rather un-dialectical understanding of ideology and consciousness. What you need to interrogate is the crisis of Marxism/consciousness that emerged and re-emerged over the course of the 20th century since the defeat of the Russian revolution, and it is within this history of the Left that Gramsci et al. will appear as a symptom and problem of fascism/Stalinism/Maoism–all of which were affirmative ideologies of Marxism. By the time we came to Said and Foucault et al, social consciousness, historically, had regressed farther and farther to the right, and post-colonialism/post-modernism is a problematic instantiation of this historical regression. So perhaps what you need to brush up is going to the basics, i.e., Marx.

    2. Fascism was the “socialism of fools”. Like modern-day Islamism, it was an attempt to escape, step back or retreat from capitalism. The mass extermination of the Jews was an attempt to negate the values of money, banking, international cosmopolitanism, and thus “society” in favor of national “community”. What Atiya is saying is that the Stalinist line of “socialism in one country” (the nationalization of socialism) – which was “affirmative” in the sense of substituting for a project of the global overcoming of capitalism a state-capitalist project of economic development and social regimentation) – paved the way for fascism (aka National Socialism).

    3. Ah, I see what you mean. Although I for one do not subscribe to the school that reads fascism as a retreat from capitalism, but as a manifestation of a terrifying possibility within European nationalism. The strain of thought that built the nations of the continent can be traced rather easily from the nineteenth century through 1848 to fascism, and one hardly needs Marx to show the way. [In any event, I had understood Atiya to be referring to Nazism as a manifestation of a kind of MARXISM — not as a manifestation of the totalitarianism of Stalin. ] One might usefully add Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism here, who explicitly draws a link between colonialism/imperialism (particularly in its scramble-for-africa-form) and the practices of the 20th century totalitarian regimes (she of course did see Hitler’s and Stalin’s regimes as more alike than different). For Arendt, the practices of the European colonizers in Africa — who, as she put it, for the first time legitimized “wild murdering” as a respectable part of the foreign policy of civilized nations — had far more to do with Nazism and Stalinism than Marx’s thought.

      In any event, the direct line from Stalinism’s socialism in one country to fascism doesn’t quite work, given the chronology of Mussolini’s seizure of power.

      Re: “…“affirmative” in the sense of substituting for a project of the global overcoming of capitalism a state-capitalist project of economic development and social regimentation) – paved the way for fascism (aka National Socialism).”

      I’m not sure I follow: are you suggesting that the Marxism of Nazism lies in the fact that it REPLACED the Marxist project — “the global overcoming of capitalism” — with “a state-capitalist project of economic development and social regimentation”? If so, that is an argument for why Nazism and Stalinism are like each other, not for why fascism proceeds from Marx. In fact, you seem to be saying that Nazism and Stalinism REJECTED Marx’s project in similar ways (I am inclined to agree).

    4. Completely off topic: I recently read Mazower’s “Hitler’s Empire”, and I can’t recommend it enough; a superb examination of how the Nazis administered the territories under their rule (or, one should say, the different ways in which they administered the different territories under their rule). A good juxtaposition with Littell’s “The Kindly Ones” (an indulgent novel that, ultimately, I do not think justifies its nearly 1,000-page length, but (in its middle sections) is the best recreation I have come across of the mindset of “total war.”

      …well, perhaps not completely off-topic: as I wrote the above I was reminded that for Mazower and Littell, the elimination of the Jews did not represent any retreat from capitalism, but was a function of “total war”. [This doesn’t get one all the way there, of course, as I take it your point might be that the hatred of the Jews, the marking out of Jews as beyond the pale, itself represented the retreat from capitalism. I’m not persuaded by that either, inasmuch as Nazism was able to draw on venerable anti-Semitic archives and registers, going back all the way to the founding of institutionalized Christianity (even as Nazism was not reducible to those archives and registers); once the relevant subject of politics was defined as “the people”, the Jewish “other” was always a likely candidate for stigmatization. I do not view this as the Nazis hearkening to a pre-capitalist past, but as the ongoing construction of a “people” that had already been put in play by European nationalism — which wasn’t understood as contrary to capitalism as it was understood then. Inasmuch as the nation state was seen as the very summa of modernity (it still is, as the sad and bloody history of the once-colonized demonstrates daily), the figure of the Jew, by not being reducible to the national paradigms of Europe came to be seen as both stubbornly BACKWARD (i.e. refusing to accept the new paradigm of nation co-extensive with state co-extensive with people) and simultaneously as SUBVERSIVE (for supposedly owing loyalty to a trans-national ethic; and for supposedly having relatives etc. across national borders). I suppose the canard and slander about nefarious Jewish trans-national networks of finance etc. does reflect unease with capitalism, but I don’t think the anti-Semite bastions of industry and private enterprise saw it that way. [We tend to define “capitalism” as the free and unfettered movement of capital globally, and across national boundaries; but as a historical matter I am not sure that was how it was seen in the nineteenth century.]

    5. To clarify that last point: IMO capitalism was not understood at the time as unconnected to national imperatives, the development of the nation (as against any other nation), etc. This was as true in England as in America — thus no-one thought capitalism was incompatible with protectionist measures, and is partly why the scramble for colonies seemed reasonable to the European powers.* Whereas TODAY we tend to think of protectionism etc. as un-capitalist, i.e. we focus more on the free flow of capital aspect of it, whereas they focused more on the private enterprise aspect of it.

      *[It is surely no coincidence that the Axis powers were precisely “latecomers” — both to the game of nationalism, and hence to the game of imperialism. Britain and France could afford to be status quo-ist, because their scramble for land and resources, and the concomitant crimes, lay in the past. For Germany, Japan, and (pathetically) Italy there were not many non-white parts of the globe left, and for them status quo would mean second class status. A disgusting sense of entitlement, for sure, but by no means foreign to the logic of imperialism.

    6. On Islamism as a retreat from capitalism, that’s an interesting question: I think I would agree when we talk about “founders” like Syed Qutb Shah, Hassan Al Banna/the Muslim Brotherhood, etc., but I don’t feel that is an adequate explanation for the likes of the Taliban, who seem quite primitive to me (is the point that the link may be traced through their Deobandi/Wahhabi-inspired brand of Islam?), and in a long line of religious reactionaries who have rallied forces against imperialists: the Mahdi in Sudan in the late 19th century; the Waziristan rebellion of the late-1930s, etc…. Osama bin Laden/Al Qaida also don’t seem to me to be pre-capitalist or even anti-capitalist (their brand of terrorism in fact depends upon and assumes a world where trans-national capital flows are relatively easy) — they seem like unabashed xenophobes, Muslim supremacists, etc. to me.

    7. A few quick points. The point is not that Islamism is truly anti-capitalist, but that it imagines itself to oppose forms of heteronomy characteristic of modern society. Needless to say, I agree that any islamist state that might emerge would be perfectly “capitalist” just as the european fascist states were perfectly “capitalist,” irrespective of their delusions about volksgemeinschaft. The point in identifying an ideology as a form of reactionary anti-modernism is not to imply that it actually represents any alternative (other than a more degraded and unfree form of capitalism).

      I don’t think the medieval history of anti-semitism tells you much about Nazi exterminatory anti-semitism (or about modern islamist anti-semitism). These are ideologies rooted in capitalist subjectivity. The key in my view to understanding the total break involved with modern anti-semitism lies in the analysis of “Auschwitz,” i.e. industrialized mass murder. No medieval anti-semite ever dreamt of extermination of a people and no medieval pogrom ever attempted it (as Arendt, among numerous others, makes clear). Formative for my thinking about fascist anti-semitism have been Horkheimer’s “The Jews in Europe” and Horkheimer and Adorno’s “Elements of Semitism: The Limits of Enlightenment” in The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

      I don’t think you can get very far in understanding Nazism as a form of “imperialism” (unless by that you mean the “colonization” of Europe itself). On the contrary, Nazism had a strong anti-imperialist element, as Subhas Chandra Bose and numerous Iranian and Arab nationalists realized. Even the Japanese postured as liberators from the imperial yoke.

      As for “no-one thinking capitalism was incompatible with protectionist measures,” I would strongly disagree. Adam Smith certainly thought so, and he was only recapitulating a tradition that went straight back to the Glorious Revolution. Borderless capitalism became an actual fact in the mid-19th century, much more so than it ever has been in our time (though I agree that Germany, the U.S., and others quickly developed protectionist measures).

    8. I wouldn’t imply that Marx’s thought had ANYTHING to do with “wild murder” in the colony. But I also wouldn’t claim that “wild murder” ever formed “a respectable part of the foreign policy of civilized nations.” Mussolini’s seizure of power is much like the SPD’s rise to power on the corpses of the German Revolution. The failure of revolution in Europe (Germany and Italy) was the precondition of the Stalinization of the Russian Revolution.
      I’m not saying anything about the “Marxism of Nazism”. I consider myself a Marxist. I spoke rather of the socialist character of Nazism. They are not the same thing. After all, Marxism emerged as a criticism of socialism (including that of Proudhon, who became an anti-semite). My formulation is to show the lines of filiation in the period of 20th century European revolution/counter-revolution, not to equate Stalinism and Nazism, as I do not think they are the same thing (“totalitarianism”).

    9. RE: “I wouldn’t imply that Marx’s thought had ANYTHING to do with “wild murder” in the colony. But I also wouldn’t claim that “wild murder” ever formed “a respectable part of the foreign policy of civilized nations.””

      Just so I’m clear, that was a near-quote from Arendt. But yes, I do agree with her that in the scramble for Africa, especially before the late nineteenth century, “wild murder” did become a respectable part of the foreign policy of civilized nations. [Aside: I especially liked Sven Lindqvist’s slim little book “Exterminate All the Brutes”, as a kind of horrible coda to Arendt’s book.]

      Re: “My formulation is to show the lines of filiation in the period of 20th century European revolution/counter-revolution, not to equate Stalinism and Nazism, as I do not think they are the same thing (”totalitarianism”).”

      Understood. But this topic had come up in response to Atiya’s formulation, and my confusion about what she meant.

    10. I’d say skip Hall, Laclau and Mouffe, and Said (each of whom has a functionalist conception of ideology) and start instead with Marx and Lukacs (for whom ideology exists at the level of totality and is rooted in social practice).
      My whole point is that it is quasi-racist to claim that “we can read a person’s politics into his/her identity” (which is precisely what happens in a category like “western media”). As for collaborators and native informants, are you saying that Pir Zubair Shah is a modern-day dubhashi because he writes in the NYT with Carlotta Gall?

  17. What is the equivalent in Pakistan to the numerous left-wing media outlets in India (and the U.S.)?

    Eh? Where are these numerous outlets in India; I count only one mainstream daily that is Left-Liberal; the others are pretty mainstream and centrist or conservative. Most of the other media are fairly centrist as well; and on FP issues they tend to fall within the national consensus, with most veering towards a hawkish interpretation. The idea that there are scores of left-wing media outlets in India is quite wrong imo. There is a lot of leftist and liberal literature out there but it is prodcued mainly be activists and academics not the mainstream media.

    1. Wow, Spencer – for such a lot of words, shades of grey are strangely missing from your analysis (the color reference is not meant to be crypto-racist). Forgive me for thinking your and Arun’s thinking a wee bit deterministic, or have you been infected with the fatalism of the Islamists? I hope I don’t have to spell out what I mean by this since like Sepoy, I am feeling a bit lazy.
      Cheers!

    2. The statement, “There is a lot of leftist and liberal literature out there but it is prodcued mainly be activists and academics not the mainstream media” holds just as much for the U.S. and Europe as it does for India. Genuinely leftist media is always produced by leftist political parties and organizations in civil society, never by mainstream media sources. The point is that such parties (and their affiliated academics and intellectuals) exist in India.

    3. There is much more leftist literature out there in India than there is in the UK and a lot of the Anglo-Saxon democracies but leaving this aside – where exactly are these numerous media outlets that you claim are left wing in India – they simply don’t exist outside activist and left-wing circles. Leftist thought outside the intellegentsia has very limited impact because of its unwillingness to engage the rural peasantry and landless labour directly and the small and fragmented nature of the urban proletariat. The bulk of the media is very centrist and conservative – and have you even looked at the bulk of the vernacular media, hardly leftist or liberal. The fact that there are 20 small leftist or activist groups waffling on about the latest nuclear deal and producing pamphlets etc. doesn’t mean it is read by more than a narrow band of people.

    4. If you read my post carefully, you would that I specifically deny that there is a left-wing media in India.
      I don’t the Left in India is unwilling to engage the rural peasantry, I think they are unable to do so. That’s why they are called “the rural peasantry.”
      As for “the bulk of the vernacular media,” I don’t think anybody has looked at it – it’s too vast. I can read with pleasure only the Marathi press and while certainly are differences between the English and the Marathi press, I don’t think there is any ideological divide. Rather (and as one might expect), there is more local news in the Marathi paper. The other important difference is that many of the Marathi papers have a stronger editorial presence, so that they more abashedly represent a single perspective, not infrequently one that is linked to party politics. I can also read Bengali, though, to be honest, I require some assistance from my Bengali in-laws. There, because of the power of the CPI(M), one finds plenty of “leftist” commentary (as one does in the English press in Bengal), so, I would say there’s not much point in generalizing about the indian vernacular press, either.
      The Left is weak everywhere, but I don’t think the Left any more prone to “waffling on” than any other political persuasion (on the contrary).

    5. If you read my post carefully, you would that I specifically deny that there is a left-wing media in India.

      This is substantially different though from your initial description of “numerous left wing media outlets” that were supposed to exist in India. If you now want to disown this claim, that is fine, since it seems more in line with reality but should be acknowledged, you can’t say one thing in an initial comment, then say the reverse and expect people not to notice the contradiction.

      I don’t the Left in India is unwilling to engage the rural peasantry, I think they are unable to do so. That’s why they are called “the rural peasantry.”

      I don’t know what your evidence for this claim is but it is wrong. Where the Left has engaged with the rural peasantry and proletariat they tend to be able to do well and mount an effective resistance. The success of the CPI(M) in West Bengal is pretty much based on this strategy. The early successes of the Socialist Party in the 1960s in UP was based on this approach as well. It is also not as difficult or impossible to do as you seem to be implying; the OBC based parties pretty much have used as the base of their electoral strategy in north India for the last 30 years with a reasonbale level of success; though of course they have used the idiom of caste and not class.

      I don’t think anybody has looked at it – it’s too vast. I can read with pleasure only the Marathi press and while certainly are differences between the English and the Marathi press, I don’t think there is any ideological divide

      This is quite a simplisitic statement but that might be because I primarily read Hindi and I can tell you the press here covers a lot more than just ‘local’ news. It plays an important role in forming opinion and presenting facts on a wide range of issues; especially state govt policy, communalism and the whole issue of reservations. The ideological divide here is huge with the English press, I am stunned that anyone would even claim otherwise. Perhaps it is different with other regional vernaculars.

      There, because of the power of the CPI(M), one finds plenty of “leftist” commentary (as one does in the English press in Bengal), so, I would say there’s not much point in generalizing about the indian vernacular press, either.

      Dunno about this; Ananda Bazaar was always pretty hostile towards the CPM(M) and in the English press so was the Telegraph. Only the Statesman was left of centre and even here CR IRani made it very clear that his philosophy was for the media to act as an independent check on power and as a sort of informal opposition. Something that always enraged Alimuddin street; I remember interviewing several PB members who used to get abusive about this paper in particular. The CPM(M) has had a pretty antagonistic relationship with the media; only of late did it learn the art of ‘spinning’. I only read the Statesman these days and it hardly qualifies as a “leftist” paper though it takes a progressive stand on many issues.

      The Left is weak everywhere, but I don’t think the Left any more prone to “waffling on” than any other political persuasion (on the contrary).

      Umm, actually I would completely disagree with you here; I think you are quite disconnected from ground realities. Many left groups care a lot about ideological issues that other parties don’t bother with; most of the regional and caste parties do anything but waffle. Parties like the BSP, SP, JD, and even the Congress are very tuned in to concentrating either on highly symobolic issues, creating social coalitions through the use of code-words and concepts and appealing to particular interests. They spend very little time on actual waffling; attending some of the election rallies at least in northern India UP, Haryana and Delhi which is where I have most of my experience reveals this very clearly.

    6. I clearly identified left-wing outlets as chiefly party political organs, though there is also the likes of Frontline and The Hindu, both of which can be counted upon to articulate left-wing opinions in the mainstream.

      I would say that you mistake an electoral strategy for party organization. Leftist parties do not aspire simply to have electoral strategies, but to organize workers to politicize everyday life. This is, quite simply, impossible to do in the case of peasants. Not even Mao really attempted it on anything close to an all-China scale.

      So you think the Hindi press represents something like a different world, a different subjectivity than does the English press? Are there two Indias, one that speaks the vernacular and one that speaks English? I don’t think so. I didn’t say that the vernacular covers only local news. Re-read what I wrote. In urban Maharashtra (in Pune, Nasik, and Mumbai, for instance) it is very common to find people subscribing to both an English and a Marathi paper. In fact, the biggest Marathi paper in Pune, Sakal, has recently launched an English edition.
      You make my point about Bengal for me. The point was that it’s hard to generalize.

      Of course, it is easy to avoid “waffling” when a party’s politics concentrates on symbolic issues, as does the politics of the parties you mention, all of which are deeply opportunistic. I don’t really see as particularly virtuous being decisive about non-issues or in the outright mass obscurantism in which non-left (and Stalinist) parties engage. I would rather view that decisiveness itself as expressive of a deeper authoritarianism.

    7. I clearly identified left-wing outlets as chiefly party political organs, though there is also the likes of Frontline and The Hindu, both of which can be counted upon to articulate left-wing opinions in the mainstream.

      To be honest you actually didn’t do this. Initially you made a point at a general level about “numerous media outlets” which you later qualified several times. Saying that left wing party have their own media products is kind of pointless, given that few read them outside the supporters of these parties and even here there aren’t too many serious readers. The Hindu-Frontline family are the only exception in the mainstream media, which is why your initial quote puzzled me.

      I would say that you mistake an electoral strategy for party organization. Leftist parties do not aspire simply to have electoral strategies, but to organize workers to politicize everyday life. This is, quite simply, impossible to do in the case of peasants. Not even Mao really attempted it on anything close to an all-China scale.

      I think that is a simplistic and incorrect analysis of party organisation of the Left in India. In West Bengal, there was a concerted attempt to win over key sections of the rural peasantry and marginal farmers; ranging from sharecroppers to the jotedar class. It was this strategy that paid divided after the 1977 elections and is the base of the CPI(M)’s support; this network has increased through expansion of the surplus farmers and other intermediaries in the PRI system further entrenching party rule in the countryside. The CPI(M) has only managed to organise the formal workers in the industrial sector; it has failed quite miserably in organising and mobilising those in the informal sector; like most Left parties in India. In anycase, a purely ‘worker’ based strategy won’t get you very far in India given the preponderance of the rural population and the restricted nature of Indian capitalism that has a dual-sector characteristic. In adopting the path of parliamentary socialism, rather than revolution; the CPI(M) has had to address this issue and built up its rural programme which saw it come to power.

      So you think the Hindi press represents something like a different world, a different subjectivity than does the English press? Are there two Indias, one that speaks the vernacular and one that speaks English? I don’t think so.

      Oh yes, the Hindi ‘public sphere’ is very different from the English one; the political idioms and the concepts are very distinct. These two overlap somewhat and people move in both spheres but they are quite distinct; which is why the English media get caught napping on how the vernacular sphere views issues such as reservations, communalism, minority rights etc. Language apartheid is a fact in India; the only thing I will say is that given the status of English; I have seen an almost unbridled desperation by hindi-speaking parents as well as illiterate ones to make sure that their children get some access to English-medium education. Unfortunately, English is still seen as the route to social status and mobility. Lastly, I kind of wonder what you are basing your arguement here if you can’t speak Hindi and so don’t know what the vernacular press in this language is like?

      In urban Maharashtra (in Pune, Nasik, and Mumbai, for instance) it is very common to find people subscribing to both an English and a Marathi paper. In fact, the biggest Marathi paper in Pune, Sakal, has recently launched an English edition

      I don’t think urban Maharashtra is very representative here of India. This is the case in South India from what I am told as well. My experience really recounts what is happening in the Hindi belt- where most of the population actually live.

      You make my point about Bengal for me. The point was that it’s hard to generalize.

      No, actually if you read what I said; I didn’t. The largest language daily in Bengali is not leftist at all and neither is the Telegraph; the other main English daily, the Statesman can be said to be mildy progressive on most issues but is no a left-orientated newspaper, at least on economic policy. Simply having some liberal social views and endorsing a secular line, hardly makes one a ‘left’ paper. My point was the exact reverse of what you were saying.

      I don’t really see as particularly virtuous being decisive about non-issues or in the outright mass obscurantism in which non-left (and Stalinist) parties engage. I would rather view that decisiveness itself as expressive of a deeper authoritarianism.

      Yes and no. The problem with traditional left thinking is that they have no answer to the language and idiom of caste; which is the sharp reality in much of northern India; and effectively they have abandoned any adherence to an alternative economic strategy as their state govts show but merely are implementing reforms “with a human face” so why should those outside the upper caste elite pay much heed to them? The only stream to take a lot of the burning social issues, especially in the countryside seriously are the Naxalites, something acknowledged by those Dalit intellectuals who disagree with them and which is why the Naxalites have proved so resilient and difficult to eradicate, even in the most reactionary and violent parts of the country.

  18. “The idea that the Taliban threat is overblown by “hysterical” and “hyperventilating” western commentators is, in my view, motivated by a dangerous refusal to recognize the clear and present danger to all our Pakistani (political and personal) friends”

    “Are not the Pakistani Taliban ideologically, materially, and organizationally linked to the the same elements that the ISI fostered in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s and that were for years so integral to its strategy in Kashmir? ”

    Here are views of couple of western reporters/journalists on these questions.

    “But who exactly the Taliban is may rest in the eye of the beholder.”
    http://fairuse.100webcustomers.com/thatseemsfair/latimes0162.html

    “The Taliban are coming! The Taliban are coming!”
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/05/03-2

    1. My whole point is that ideology doesn’t really divide along East/West lines, so why should I surprised if western journalists represent a variety of ideological positions? My point is the derogatory epithet “western media” doesn’t really say much. It’s content is, as I say, quasi-racist.
      There were numerous Pakistani journalists and news commentators claiming that the Mumbai attacks were the product of a Hindu-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy. Why do we give those clowns a free pass, while harping on and on about the American media? Seriously.

    2. Re: “There were numerous Pakistani journalists and news commentators claiming that the Mumbai attacks were the product of a Hindu-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy. Why do we give those clowns a free pass, while harping on and on about the American media? Seriously.”

      Speaking personally, and not making any wider claims, for me it is probably a question of audience: if I am speaking to sepoy or spencer L., I would imagine it’s a waste of time trying to debunk such propaganda, because I assume that all of us already agree that it is crap. I do spend a lot of time addressing this problem if the “audience” is different.

    3. “My point is the derogatory epithet “western media” doesn’t really say much. It’s content is, as I say, quasi-racist.”
      Spencer,
      Sepoy was appearing on Democracy now(a “western media”) and appreciated Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalaz for their kindness to air his view point.He pokes fun on NYT for giving much larger and prominent place to view points which are in tandem with official Washington policies.
      So how is it crypto-racist?

      “First of all, on the question of the “American media,” it seems to me counter-productive to try to link the reporters of the New York Times and Washington Post with some imperialist conspiracy.”

      Counterproductive for what? How do you read the criticism of NYT/WA PO, as an allegation of imperial conspiracy. Are you not putting words in other people’s mouth?

      “There were numerous Pakistani journalists and news commentators claiming that the Mumbai attacks were the product of a Hindu-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy. Why do we give those clowns a free pass, while harping on and on about the American media? ”
      So now we are bigots for having a free pass for clowns in Pakistan media. I have not seen any serious takers of that “Hindu-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy theory” debating for that on this sitelet alone any serious taker.

      Calling other people racist and bigoted to discredit a genuine desire for debate does not lead anywhere. Ifyou have already made up your mind then there is no debate.

      “I surprised if western journalists represent a variety of ideological positions? ”
      If you read carefully, these journalists are not taking ideological positions , they are talking about the facts on ground in the “AF-Pak” conflict zone form their own years of experience ,they are giving their opinions based on facts closer to the reality than the official Washington version.
      My final point is that why these view points of people like Eric Margolis/ Graham Fueller ,who are much well informed, do not find place on the pages of NYT/Wa Po, and that is the bias that we love to ridicule. I donot be apologist for “clowns in Pak media” but when was tha last time Pakistan Army invaded a sovergn country based on their mis-infromation and killed thousands and displaced millions. But this is precisely what happened in Iraq. Now replace Saddam with Taliban and the risk of WMDs with real WMDs falling iin their hands and ironically US shifting the military from Iraq (went to fight a phantom threat )to “AF-Pak” (to fight another phantom threat)and the role NYT/Wa PO played and continues to play to manufacture the consent in public opinion arena and you get the picture, but only with an open mind
      Here is Fisk
      “And terror, terror, terror. Something else I notice. Innocent or “terrorists”, civilians or Taliban, always it is the Muslims who are to blame”
      http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/05/07-17
      .

    4. I was not calling anyone a “racist”. I was characterizing views as “quasi-racist”. I suppose more to the point, they are lazy and, certainly, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez don’t need to be congratulated for and confirmed in their pseudo-leftism.
      The fact that nobody “takes seriously” the rhetoric about the Hindu-Zionist-Crusader conspiracy (itself a debatable point) is that, before I posted, nobody seemed to contest the claims about the “western media” either. The point I was making is that Sepoy made claims about the vitality of the public sphere in Pakistan, so I was pointing out that not every “diversity of opinion” is indicative of a vital public sphere. And the dismissal of journalists concerned about the capitulation of the Pakistani Army to the Taliban (which has in fact been happening) as the mere “hyperventilation of the western media” is politically to suggest that such concerns are foreign to the people of Pakistan, a claim that I (and innumerable Pakistani comrades) would vociferously dispute. When you ask, “So now we are bigots for having a free pass for clowns in Pakistan media?” I would say, “that’s for you to answer.” Certainly, I believe there is such a thing as virulent Third Worldism, nationalism, and racism in Pakistan (and, indeed, the discourse about the HZC conspiracy clearly expresses it). After all, Pakistan is a country that has over the last six decades very largely expelled its minority populations, whose military perpetrated horrific atrocities in Bangladesh in 1971 (that still unacknowledged in the mainstream Pakistani media), and in which mixed-race and mixed-religion marriage, etc. (nevermind gay rights, open promiscuity, or even the outward expression of female sexuality) are effectively quashed. The onward march of the Taliban is, of course, deeply complicit in consolidating precisely these most despicable trends in Pakistani politics and I say they deserve condemnation. Sepoy, in his commentary on Democracynow!, hardly spared a word for these matters. He is a good friend, but politically I disagree extremely with this sort of obfuscation. I think it perfectly fair to call it out as “nationalist”.
      As for your points about Iraq, I think the idea that the invasion of Iraq was the result of a lack of public information is misleading and incomplete. I would say that the information available to the public in the United States was, because of the ready availability of first-rate newspapers, magazines, and books, as great or greater than in any other nation on earth. If you want to get to the bottom of ideology (if ideology is what motivated the (American public’s acquiescence in the) invasion of Iraq), I think we would have to go much deeper than speaking simply about insufficient information.

    5. “Certainly, I believe there is such a thing as virulent Third Worldism, nationalism, and racism in Pakistan (and, indeed, the discourse about the HZC conspiracy clearly expresses it).”

      Spencer I have carefully reviewed all your posts, I think the ideological prism with which you view Islam and Pakistan, there is hardly any room for debate.
      But just to point out a few contradictions in your view point.On The America/India/Israel questions in Pakistan,there is a broad spectrum of opinions from one extreme to another. But you pick an extreme view of a few and generalize it to whole nation.(Now for example, USA was involved in genocide of Native Americans and slavery of black people, with few people like Mona Charen in media saying that Blacks are better off here as slaves then in Africa, would you dare to say that all americans are genocidal or love slavery?).

      Another example,Just put these two of your views next to each other
      “capitulation of the Pakistani Army to the Taliban (which has in fact been happening) ”

      “After all, Pakistan is a country that has over the last six decades very largely expelled its minority populations, whose military perpetrated horrific atrocities in Bangladesh in 1971 (that still unacknowledged in the mainstream Pakistani media)”

      So first of all in 1971(uptil fall of Dhaka) it was still East Pakistan and not Bangladesh. So Pakistan Army(Which no doubt committed horrible atrocities against its own population in east pakistan), was engaged in civil war. So I do not understand on one hand you are condemming the whole nation/press for commiting the atrocities in 1971 and expelling minorities. In the same breath you are disappointed that Pakistan Army is not commiting enough ‘horrific Atrocities” against “Taliban” read Pushtuns which are again ethnic minority in Pakistan and some are being expelled right now as we cheer on these “good atricities”

      Think about this for a minute.

    6. I did not say that everyone is a HZC conspiracy theorist in Pakistan. I said that such things are said in the mass media and that they are deserving of condemnation, perhaps far more so than the editorial limitations of the New York Times.
      When people say that Blacks were better off here as slaves then in Africa they echo the sentiments of numerous African-American leftist intellectuals, who have argued precisely that it is better to have lived as emancipated slaves in the heart of liberal capitalism, than to have lived in sub-Saharan Africa. The argument has very often been used in African-American circles to argue against back-to-Africa separatists. It’s not an inherently racist statement.
      Of course, it was East Pakistan. Where did I imply otherwise? The actions of the Pakistani Army treated the Bengalis as a subject people and not as fellow nationals in a civil war. Are the rapings and the wholesale slaughter of unarmed students and professors commensurate with the description of the war’s being a civil war? Clearly, AND I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT THIS FOR A MINUTE, the difference between the Bangladesh War in 1971 and the (Non-)war against the Taliban today is a political difference. the issue of “atrocities” tells you nothing whatsoever. “Atrocities” are committed in every war. The Nazis were the victims of terrible “atrocities” perpetrated by the Allies, but that fact tells you nothing about the politics of World War II.
      The Pakistani Army was fighting against democracy in East Pakistan. It was bloodily suppressing anything that could have been the constitution of Pakistan. Full Stop. The opposite would be the case were the Pakistani Army to expel the Taliban from Pakistani territory, since, after all, the Taliban loudly proclaims its hostility to the laws and constitutional order of Pakistan.

    7. I agree that “atrocities” tells one nothing about the politics of the situation, but in any case, there is no comparison: in East Pakistan in 1970, the Pakistani army (aided and abetted by Bengali collaborator groups, most prominently the Jamaat-e-Islami) murdered anywhere between 1.5 and 3.5 million people, an astounding kill-rate (I am not aware of more precise figures). Another 10-15 million people fled, and (again these are imprecise estimates) several hundred thousand women were raped, perhaps the largest incidence of mass rape since the Soviet assaults on German women in Eastern Europe, or the 1947 savageries of India’s partition. Whatever we call this — genocide (by some estimates, 50% of those who died or fled were Hindus; in any event, the notion that Bengalis were “Hindu-like” or “half Hindu” was an integral part of the rhetoric, and thus it was a kind of genocide by proxy) or gendercide (90% of those who died were men, again consistent with General Tikka Khan’s reported objective to kill Bengali men and rape women so that “the next generation will be half Punjabi/Pathan”) or ideologocide a la Khmer Rouge (a conscious attempt was made to kill “intellectuals”, lefties/Commnist party members, and groups (e.g. Hindus) imagined to be supporting those parties (I guess the Nazis too drew similar links between Bolshevism and Nazism)) — there is surely no comparison with what is going on in Swat right now. Not suggesting Akbar is drawing such a comparison, but still.

      And on ’71, I am more sympathetic to Spencer L’s point: Akbar, “the nation” cannot be absolved of the atrocities in East Pakistan because, while the details of the killings and the rapes were not known, there was widespread view that the Bengalis were “traitors”, and that they needed to be “taught a lesson”, etc. It is glib in the extreme to say that because both groups were Pakistanis, the victims’ “innocence” rubs off on those who did nothing (by this yardstick, both Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat 2002 were Indians/Gujaratis; Germans and (at least German) Jews were both Germans, etc.) 1971 has long been Pakistan’s biggest blind spot, and to this day there is no reckoning, no discussion, no acknowledgment.

    8. “The Pakistani Army was fighting against democracy in East Pakistan. It was bloodily suppressing anything that could have been the constitution of Pakistan. Full Stop. The opposite would be the case were the Pakistani Army to expel the Taliban from Pakistani territory, since, after all, the Taliban loudly proclaims its hostility to the laws and constitutional order of Pakistan.”

      Spencer
      I am well aware of the atrocities in East Pakistan( I heard the first hand accounts of these from one of my first cousin who was held as POW in India and returned through Wagah) and I have also heard it from my Bengali colleagues here in USA. And also majority of west pakistan was being made to believe that our Lion hearted soldiers were only killing “Hindus and their Bengali collaborators”, which was essentially propaganda and bullshit. So I am not trying to trivilize that sad/shameful chapter in Pakistan’s history. But the point I am trying to make is that as West Pakistan population was being propagandized day and night and Innocent people were being slaughtered and raped and destroyed, may be may be people should think carefully before lumping everybody with a “BEARD and Shalwar Kameez” as “Taliban” then Taliban with Al Quaida and then all of the above with a Global Muslim Caliphate from Spain to Indonesia. Now I understand that this thought of Muslim Caliphate taking the world over, kept GWB awake at night for 8 years,and he had 28% approval while leaving office.So those 28% delusionals are still out there. This “Taliban in Pakistan ” issue has come to center stage like wild fire in tandem with Obama’s policy announcement of AF-Pak. What is happening in Pakistan is extra judicial Killing of its own citizens at the hands of military, (especially SWAT has a very distinct history until 1969, when a dictaotr Yahya Khan Federalized it.). They have rights just like Bengalis had and just like all Pakistanis do.
      So if we are ashamed of happenings in Bengal, then believe me people are going to be ashamed of these atrocities also. Now comparing even all of Pushtuns some 40 million on both sides of border with Nazi’s etc is simply Lunatic and fringes on delusion.
      A better course for noble well wishers of Pakitan would be to read the 1973 constitution of Pakistan (Preamble of the 1973 Constitution , the existing constitution)
      “Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;……Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah)
      Now this constitution was ratified by elected representatives from all four provinces. I am not a great fan of this but what Swatis are demanding is their comstitution right, unless the democratically elected parliments amends the constitution to the liknigs of us all,

      and help the democratic set up work.What is not being discussed is that since August of 2008, two things happened

      1) The drones attack have increased inside Pakistan.Here is what Ron Paul has to say about it while questioning Mr Holbrook
      http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2009/05/10/ron-paul-why-escalate-into-pakistan/

      2)About sametime, US military aid to Pakistan was stopped, failed state rhetoric was everywhere, that crashed the stock market and foreign investors fled, economy crashed Rupee suddenly went fro 60 per dollar to 60/dollar. So that is the classic tactics that empires use to squeeze unruly satraps. Now that military again started extra judicial killing of its own citizens and emergency AID is on the way, bills are in the congress and even IMF gave relaxations yesterday.Now who are we kidding that this fight is about womens rights or democracy or freedom!
      Here is what PEPE Escobar has to say about pipelinesatn,
      http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2009/05/12/pipelineistan-goes-af-pak/

      On the balance if you look at 1.8 trillion dollars budget deficit this year and DOD estimated cost of 770,000 dollars per year for keeping one US solidier in Af-Pak, you can understand why propnents of war are falling like ton of bricks on Pakistan ARMY, because that is only cheao alternative. Believe me they are not upto the job, Iam no fan of military but they were incompetent, atrocious retards in East Pakistan in 1960s, they did the same in Balochistan in 1970s, again replay in Sindh and Karachi in 1980’s to both sindhis inder ZIAand Mohajirs ,later. So all the noble well wishers of womens rights / enlightened moderation be careful while putting all your bets on military.

    9. Isn’t Pakistani society allowed to have it’s own values? The fact that you think that Pakistanis should support gay rights, “open promiscuity” or the expression of female sexuality is fine, but what if that’s not what the Pakistanis themselves want? Like it or not, Pakistan is very much an Islamic society, and the majority of Muslims cannot support gay rights (even if we would want them to). Open Promiscuity is another matter. Even I, as a generally left-of center person, am uncomfortable with this idea. It seems to me that you fault Pakistanis for not agreeing exactly with your value system? Why should we? Are we not allowed to have a value-system of our own? Does Pakistani democracy necessarily have to reproduce the values of US democracy?

    10. Kabir: I think you have hit upon the distinction (a troubling question, and I do not pretend to have a definitive answer to this) between pluralism and liberalism: i.e. the latter does not purport to be the former, and at least since 9/11, there has been a rather muscular and aggressive liberalism, one might even say a liberal supremacism (Christopher Hitchens is a good example of this; Niall Ferguson too) in evidence that is contemptuous of any kind of/any degree of cultural relativism, and that is willing to embrace (the idea of) “empire” as a force of progress in the world (a worldview that might not be very alien to the Yourcenar who wrote the “Memoirs of Hadrian”).

    11. Here is Stephen Walt’s assessment of mainstream US media,

      “Americans wonder why the U.S. position in the Middle East keeps deteriorating, and one reason for their confusion is that elite publications like the Journal feed readers only one side of the story, no matter how discredited it’s become. The Journal (and plenty of other U.S. media outlets) could do everyone a public service by promoting a wider range of views on its op-ed page, but its editors seem to think democracy is best served by a diversity of opinion that is about as broad as what one used to see in Pravda.”

      Is he a racist too?

      http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/

    12. Well, look at the premise – America’s position in the Middle East is deteriorating. It seems that, very arguably, the opposite is true. The position of the U.S. in the Middle East may never have been stronger.
      As for Israel, there are plenty of sources in the U.S. (including the NYT) in which to find criticisms and reportage respecting Israel. Maybe not as good as Ha’aretz, admittedly; maybe people have to exercise their rights of inquiry; but where is this not true? Where does the mainstream media represent sound opinion anywhere? One has to read the NYT and WP critically, same as with Le Monde, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, or the Times of India.
      What population in the world is more “knowledgeable” about the Israeli-Arab conflict than is the American population? I’ve lived in alot of places (including in Ramallah in Palestine), and I’d say America’s political class is as knowledgeable as any other country’s, except, of course, Israel and Palestine’s. America’s universities never cease to feature public debates of the issue.
      No Stephen Walt is not a racist, but the statement you quote is manifestly absurd (do you seriously believe it?).

    13. I’m not sure I follow all these comments on racism: seems to me sepoy is critiquing certain reporters for having a certain worldview, a certain ideology — he doesn’t seem to me to be critiquing them on account of their ethnicity/cultural background. Where does the racism come in?

      Secondly, I find it odd that a blog/writer who has (just to take examples from recent weeks) criticized the Taliban’s imposition of jaziya on Swat’s Sikhs; questioned the nationalist myth of Pakistan’s founding that is the bedrock of the “standard” account of the nation’s birth; and routinely criticized the military that has acted as the self-appointed guardian of Pakistan’s national well-being for most of the last five or six decades; should be accused of nationalist obfuscation. i.e., while I am (somewhat) less sanguine about Pakistan than sepoy is, I don’t see his greater optimism as allied to “orthodox” Pakistani nationalism — I am all too familiar with that phenomenon, and it has a very different flavor than Chapati Mystery does.

      Re: “They have rights just like Bengalis had and just like all Pakistanis do.
      So if we are ashamed of happenings in Bengal, then believe me people are going to be ashamed of these atrocities also.”

      I think Akbar has articulated a very important point here: the number of people displaced in a mere 1-2 weeks is mindboggling. I have previously argued in CM (and still maintain) that I do not believe the Taliban cannot be dealt with without some use of military force, but the scale of displacement here raises some serious questions, perhaps about the Pakistani military’s competence (the BBC has aired multiple refugees claiming that army shelling has been utterly indiscriminate; that houses and livestock are being destroyed, etc.), or perhaps about its good faith — does it/the government want to raise the stakes to show the world that it is serious/deserves aid, a kind of political theater as it were? I should add that the Indian establishment does not appear to be convinced by the drumroll of experts announcing the imminent failure of Pakistan — perhaps this proceeds from India’s paranoia of Pakistan, or perhaps India has good reason for believing so, but my point is that it is surely not only crypto-nationalists who do not believe that the Taliban (actually, IMO, the multiple groups operating under that name) are on the verge of causing Pakistan to implode.

  19. Re: “As for your suggestion that Pakistani democracy is now strong, I think you are falling prey to the gross self-delusion. How could it possibly be the case that Pakistan is witnessing a major mass-based democratization even as its government cedes territories over which it claims sovereignty to the worst sort of reactionary elements? Is there any historical precedent for such a paradox? You point to the Lawyers’ Movement. If that movement were so progressive and had such deep roots in Pakistani society and was in fact spear-heading a democratic movement in Pakistan, then why doesn’t it threaten to march to Islamabad to demand the enforcement of the rule of law in Swat and the NWP? Why doesn’t it demand that the Pakistani Army defend the rights of the Pakistani people against the private armies of the Taliban, who, after all, operate on Pakistani soil in defiance of Pakistani sovereignty itself? Why doesn’t it threaten to march to Islamabad demand land reform, rights to unionize labor, the subordination of the Army to the civilian government, or the development of a state capable of delivering social services to the people of Pakistan (such as, for instance, mass education or employment)?”

    My issue with these rhetorical questions is that one could use this to argue that democracy is on the verge of collapse in a number of countries, not just Pakistan. Using the above logic, one might argue that Indian democracy is on the verge of collapse because the state has effectively ceded control over dozens of districts across the length of the country to Maoist insurgents dedicated to destroying and/or supplanting the Indian state apparatus (that these conflicts are exceptionally bloody I am sure you know); one might add that no-one in India’s urban populations seems to be mobilizing to any significant degree to try and address the problems of alienation, exploitation, etc., that fuel the insurgency; or even for the development of a state that delivers basic social services to the population; just about everyone agrees that the scope of Naxalite/Maoist activities has most certainly been widening year after year over the past decade; and in fact Maoist forces have already won one war against one South Asian government this decade. i.e., if one went by the above logic one would have to conclude that Indian democracy was also on the verge of collapse.

    [I don’t think it is: I certainly feel that Indian democracy is more robust than Pakistani democracy at this point in time; my point is that one could make a similar case using the sorts of “metrics” the media/analysts often cite, as if those metrics settled the question. The reason no-one makes that case is that the wider world is simply uninterested in Maoist insurgents in India; heck urban India is pretty uninterested in them too — i.e. the difference in perception is not necessarily based on facts on the ground, but on (as you said) a POLITICAL difference.]

    1. First of all, the Naxalites are secular and, at least arguably, progressive. They seek to build schools, not to close them down. I’ve got plenty of criticisms of Naxalite politics, but still it’s a fundamental mistake to equate them with the Taliban. The BJP might be guilty of this fallacy, but we shouldn’t be.
      Personally, I don’t consider the Maoist victory in Nepal a “collapse” of any kind. My problem with the Nepalese Maoists is that they are incapable and unwilling to push forward with revolutionary politics in Nepal and, in the end, they will betray their own followers. Still, the revolution in Nepal is great achievement, in my opinion. And while, as I say, I have criticisms of the Naxalites, I would argue that their victories contribute to democratization in India. If there was a Naxalite movement in Pakistan, it would be fighting the Taliban.
      As for the claim that, “no one in India’s urban populations seems to be mobilizing to any significant degree to try and address the problems of alienation, exploitation, etc.,” it simply isn’t true. They may not be altogether successful in India (undoubtedly they are not successful), but there are all kinds of leftist organizations engaged in hard-fought struggles, both against the power of outright saffron fascism and against Stalinism, romanticism, and other forms of bankrupt politics in their own ranks.
      In Pakistan, by contrast, the Left has been decimated for over a generation now. There is simply no comparison between India and Pakistan as organizational environments for the Left – none whatsoever.

    2. PS– my point has never been that contemporary Pakistan is as favorable an environment for left/progressive politics as India is. My point is that the sorts of metrics bandied about everywhere over the last several weeks and months don’t mean much, because the same tidbits could be used to paint a number of societies as in the throes of a terminal crisis. Thus, the Naxalites are more progressive than the Taliban — but surely it is not any such tendencies that explain why the world doesn’t foucs on them. The world doesn’t focus on them because the world has no interest in them, and is not threatened by them. Their ideology is beside the point (the history of Latin America shows that anyone’s progressive ideology is hardly going to save one if one is a threat). Thus, Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein were/are incomparably more “modern” than the Taliban — but, quite naturally, Saudi Arabia’s regime got a lot more positive coverage in the media than Qaddafi did circa 1986. I do not “blame” any media for this — nothing else could be expected –but it is a red herring to cite the progressive ideology of the Naxalites.

      If Indian democracy depended on the organizing potential and politics of the Left, it would have been dead by now. The Left is a very anemic popular phenomenon in India, outside of West Bengal (where, I would argue, whatever progressive force it represented was dissipated years and years ago), or Kerala. Today, even the trade unions in major Indian metropolises like delhi and (of course) Mumbai do not feature much Left activity (in the case of Mumbai it is the Shiv Sena). Yet a certain sort of democracy persists — and it is possible that such spaces could be maintained and could persist in Pakistan as well. There is no guarantee that will happen, but I on balance I don’t see the need to write-off the possibility because the Taliban are in control of Swat (there are other reasons why I would be pessimistic, beyond that one).

  20. Re: “Why do think the scenario would be any different if it were to be on a larger scale? It is simply naive to act as if the wishes of the population of Karachi or Lahore was particularly relevant. The issue is political. What are the political forces in those cities that can actually prosecute the war on the Taliban, advance a progressive political economic agenda, reduce the power of the military, and democratize the institutions of Pakistan?”

    It seems naive to me to assert that the wishes of Karachi and Lahore aren’t particularly relevant — Pakistani history (sadly) demonstrates the opposite, that these urban areas punch way above their weight population-wise. As for what political forces in those cities might resist the Taliban, look no further than the MQM in Karachi: I wouldn’t call that party progressive, but it is fiercely anti-Taliban (it was the only party in Parliament to refuse to ratify the Swat peace deal, and staged a walk-out), and most certainly “anti-landlord” (though it must be said it is easy for it to be thus, as its voter-base is urban, “Muhajir”, as opposed to Sindhi and rural). It is no more and no less progressive than a host of political parties in India, and it is this sort of messy party-ism that has enabled democracy to survive in its present form in India. If one hopes for the same in Pakistan, we won’t get it by waiting for the mythical progressive, pro-working class party, but instead by making do with these sorts of parties.

    The subordination of the military to civilian authority in Pakistan isn’t going to be an “event”, but can only come about as part of a “process” (i.e. GIVEN the history of Pakistan, by now that is where one is). While I am perhaps less sanguine about Pakistan than sepoy is, I would be inclined to agree that the Lawyers’ Movement etc. is a first step as far as that process is concerned, and an important one. There is obviously a lot more to be done, but it hasn’t been nothing. I would draw an analogy (a very loose one) with Turkey, where too it has been a long process (to this day, of course, the military enjoys far too much power in Turkey than it ought to; but equally, the civilian sphere is “broader” than it was a couple of decades ago).

    On Iran, I don’t think I agree with your assessment that the Shah’s army was more powerful than the Pakistani army as of 1979 — I’m no expert on this issue, and remain open to persuasion, but would like to hear your basis for saying so.

    1. All cities “punch above their weight” in modern society. The Russian Revolution was an event/process in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The American New Deal was driven by political forces in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago. Indian independence was chiefly won in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. Political organizational capacity is always concentrated in the cities. But I think the Jamaat-i-Islami (among others) has already demonstrated its strength in the cities of Pakistan. It doesn’t need a majority. The kind of “revolution” the Pakistani Taliban has in mind will be the result of a plebiscite.
      I’m not contemptuous of the Lawyers’ Movement, I am just saying let’s not exaggerate its strength and significance. There were much stronger secular forces in Pakistan when Zia came to power than there are now. Forces rooted in the Pakistani trade union movement, for instance.
      As for the Shah, his military was the anchor of the American alliance structure in Asia – the most important American ally west of Japan and South Korea. During the White Revolution (and with a state budget that dwarfed that of Pakistan), the Shah undertook a massive (quasi-fascist) modernization program during which Iran became quite wealthy by regional standards. With extremely disastrous effects, the Pakistani Army only began to receive something approaching the attention and military aid from the U.S. that it got because the Shah fell (and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan). To gauge the strength of the Iranian military in 1979, one only has to consider the fact that it fought Iraq to a draw in a catastrophically prolonged war, despite the country’s near-total diplomatic isolation and Saddam’s enjoyment of massive western support. In other words, Iran fought the Iran-Iraq War with the army it inherited from the Shah.
      I would seriously disagree with the claim that the likes of the MQM in Karachi built Indian democracy. The “mythical” pro-working class parties in India were and are legion – the CPI (very largely responsible for the unionization of workers in the 1950s and 60s); the CPI(M); the (many off-shoots of the) CPI(ML); Ambedkar’s ILP in the 1930s, the Shetkari-KamgarPaksha of the 40s, 50s, and 60s; the Socialist Party of the 50s, 60s, and 70s; and, yes, the Congress under Nehru. Whatever the problems with these political parties (and there are many others), they do not deserve to be coupled with the likes of the MQM in Karachi.

    2. Indian democracy was not built by such parties, but it thrives and lives in them, because of them, despite them. It does not survive and persist because of the legacy of the 1950s — it thrives in and because of numerous parties that are like the MQM: almost entirely dependent on the support of x or y community or group of communities, and whose ideology is often the capture of state power for the interests of those group. I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily, when one considers the alternatives on offer. Thus I don’t think it is insulting to compare the MQM to these sorts of parties — which are the principal parties in large parts of India, and arguably the majority of the country (given that in a state like Bihar, even a so-called “national” party like the BJP is really no more or less a “caste-party” than the RJD or the JD(U)). Other parties that could easily be grouped with the MQM are the Samajwadi party, the BSP, the Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena, really the list could go on and on. The point isn’t that one can draw no distinctions between these parties — one can and should; but none of them easily fits your litmus test of the pro-working class progressive party. There just aren’t that many of those in India, and the examples you cite were (barring Nehru’s Congress) hardly the driving forces of Indian politics in their eras (confined to this or that region, and not very significant at a national level), and over time gave way to the parties we see today, almost all of them peddling a sort of identity politics that would not pass your litmus test, and loosely comparable to the likes of the MQM or the other mainstream Pakistani political parties. [Nehru’s Congress, of course, died by his daughter’s profoundly illiberal hand, and whatever was left was formally buried by Indira and Sanjay Gandhi in the fascist experiment, complete with forced sterilizations, of the “Emergency”. Even Nehru’s Congress was of course hardly liberal through and through — in the key states of U.P. and Bihar, responsible for the large bulk of its legislators, the party was not dominated by its left-wing at all; numerous RSS-types were in the party post-1947. i.e. rather than drawing a distinction between “Congress” and “BJP” one ought to say that the sorts we find in today’s two national parties were both found in the Congress in the post-1947 period.]

      Re: “But I think the Jamaat-i-Islami (among others) has already demonstrated its strength in the cities of Pakistan. It doesn’t need a majority. The kind of “revolution” the Pakistani Taliban has in mind will be the result of a plebiscite.”

      You seem to want it both ways: on the one hand you speak of political parties and electoral strength, but when convenient you say that the likes of the Jamaat-e-Islami “doesn’t need a majority” as it “has already demonstrated its strength.” But where is this strength come election-time? And if Indian democracy can survive despite the permanent fascism and hooliganism of the Shiv Sena and other Sanghi groups, why should the demonstrated strength of the Jamaat outweigh all electoral considerations?

      On the Naxalites: they do not bomb schools, but they do disrupt elections, kill pollworkers, mine public roads, attack policemen, and mete out brutal punishments to those suspected of collaborating with the government against them — they are not the Taliban, but they are a far cry from Soderbergh’s Che. On balance the Indian state has only itself to blame, and a military solution to the issue isn’t feasible or just, but the point here is not the cuddliness of the rebels, but about the challenge posed to the nation-state.

  21. spencer: there is a lot here for me to pick apart. so, allow me to be lazy and give you a short answer to your last question:

    Are not the Pakistani Taliban ideologically, materially, and organizationally linked to the the same elements that the ISI fostered in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s and that were for years so integral to its strategy in Kashmir?

    No. They are not the same. Do consider looking that up.

    1. Oh come on, Sepoy. These groups are most certainly linked in just the ways that said they are. I said “organizationally linked,” not that the organizations themselves are linked. As I am perfectly aware and is well attested in the literature on the subject, the Afghan Taliban itself is not a direct outgrowth of the CIA-backed mujahideen elements that operated in the 1980s, but over the course of the consolidation of their strength (with the active assistance of the ISI) in the 1990s they most certainly incorporated many factions from the old anti-Soviet. Many of the madrasahs that supplied Taliban fighters during the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s now supply Pakistani Taliban. Or do you deny that?
      More importantly, the name “Taliban” is not randomly chosen but denotes a political program, one that was instituted in Afghanistan in the 1990s. These people are not automata. They are thinking people. They know what they are about when they call themselves “Taliban.” Or do you imagine they call themselves Taliban but they are secretly liberal social-worker types?

  22. I appreciate your forwarding this link to me. Sepoy, I am extremely skeptical of your analysis.
    First of all, on the question of the “American media,” it seems to me counter-productive to try to link the reporters of the New York Times and Washington Post with some imperialist conspiracy. It’s a warmed over version of Said’s argument in Covering Islam. In an age when journalists without western press credentials in many parts of the world have difficulty staying alive, what’s the point of condemning the ones with “western” press credentials?
    The fact of the matter is, it seems to me, that we all read the reportage coming from these outlets. Certainly, I don’t wish the NYT or WP to withdraw their journalists from Islamabad, Karachi, or Lahore (they’ve already withdrawn from Peshawar!). Nor is anything I can see that particularly distinguishes the reportage of, say, a Carlotta Gall, Ismail Khan, Salman Masood, Mark Mazetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmidt, or Pir Zubair Shah (the NYT’s roster of correspondents), from the reportage of any other media outlet in the world, in any language or from any region. Or, rather, if there is an issue, it’s hardly one of west versus east, but of left versus right.
    I have plenty of criticisms of the media, but, as Arun implies, I hardly think that the Pakistani media, say, is more immune from those criticisms than any other. I would take as an example, Ahmed Rashid. Is his point of view particularly distinct, in any way that categories like “Western media” would illuminate, from the perspective of anybody else (including your own)? Is he a member of the western media? So what is the point of casting aspersions on the work of journalists writing for U.S. newspapers? As for the media of Pakistan, what about the massive resistance in the media to acknowledging that the Mumbai terrorists were Pakistani nationals? And what are the leftist, secular organs of this media? What is the equivalent in Pakistan to the numerous left-wing media outlets in India (and the U.S.)? Are we to judge the vitality of the media strictly on the basis of the number of channels or newspapers, or isn’t some more qualitative consideration required to establish the claim of “vitality”? Name the journalist or politician who is not seriously embattled operating in any medium in Pakistan today who consistently advocates a democratic, secular, anti-landlordist, and pro-working-class politics.
    Quite frankly, your criticism of the western media seems to me like a conservative nationalist (not to mention, crypto-racist) argument. Never mind the fact that numerous Pakistani nationals routinely co-author pieces with Gall, Perlez, and Schmidt, or, indeed, pen pieces on their own for the NYT. As I pointed with respect to solid reporting of Saeed Shah in the Guardian after the Mumbai attacks, reporters in Pakistan face active hostility from the government (whether civilian or military) and should, in my view, be supported for their bravery in what is, after all, an extremely adverse environment. One need only mention the name of Daniel Pearl to remind oneself of the real dangers journalists in Pakistan face. More recently, there is Intermedia’s 2008 Annual State of Media in Pakistan Report, summarized by Irfan Bukhari in the Nation, of 15 journalists killed and numerous others injured and intimidated in Pakistan in the last year.
    As for the size of Pakistan’s cities or army, again following Arun’s point, what difference does this really make? We know that many in the Pakistani army are sympathetic (to say nothing more of it) to the (Af-Pak) Taliban. This is far more the case than was true of the Iranian army in 1979 (a much more powerful and disciplined force than anything Pakistan has today).
    The idea that the Taliban threat is overblown by “hysterical” and “hyperventilating” western commentators is, in my view, motivated by a dangerous refusal to recognize the clear and present danger to all our Pakistani (political and personal) friends. For as was the case in Iran (and, to a large extent, as was the case during the Bangladesh War and the Zia years), our political friends will not live to tell the tale of the Taliban’s takeover of Pakistan and we will be left to “hyperventilate” in our mourning for them.
    In the end, of course, the U.S. government and military don’t give a damn about the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Nor does the Pakistani political elite and your much ballyhooed middle class. 60 years of betrayal of those aspirations by the U.S. acting hand-in-glove with the Pakistani elite and middle-class demonstrate this proposition beyond any serious doubt. This does not mean that there aren’t good people working for the U.S. Government and military or that it is a sin to be elite or middle-class from Pakistan (or any other country). But as far as any class analysis of the forces of democracy in Pakistan is concerned, I would be chary or over-hyping the Lawyers’ Movement.
    In the end, unlike in Iraq, which has real geo-political significance, the U.S. military’s will to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is weak. What really does the U.S. have to lose in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Very arguably, not much. And will the Pakistani army step up to the plate to fight the Taliban in the (admitedly unlikely event) that the U.S. were to withdraw? As for the dynamics of Talibanization, as we can already see in the regions of Pakistan that have already fallen to the Taliban, the army acquiesces and the population is not consulted no matter how large the population. Why do think the scenario would be any different if it were to be on a larger scale? It is simply naive to act as if the wishes of the population of Karachi or Lahore was particularly relevant. The issue is political. What are the political forces in those cities that can actually prosecute the war on the Taliban, advance a progressive political economic agenda, reduce the power of the military, and democratize the institutions of Pakistan? More importantly, how does your analysis help any such incipient elements to orient itself strategically and tactically?
    As for your suggestion that Pakistani democracy is now strong, I think you are falling prey to the gross self-delusion. How could it possibly be the case that Pakistan is witnessing a major mass-based democratization even as its government cedes territories over which it claims sovereignty to the worst sort of reactionary elements? Is there any historical precedent for such a paradox? You point to the Lawyers’ Movement. If that movement were so progressive and had such deep roots in Pakistani society and was in fact spear-heading a democratic movement in Pakistan, then why doesn’t it threaten to march to Islamabad to demand the enforcement of the rule of law in Swat and the NWP? Why doesn’t it demand that the Pakistani Army defend the rights of the Pakistani people against the private armies of the Taliban, who, after all, operate on Pakistani soil in defiance of Pakistani sovereignty itself? Why doesn’t it threaten to march to Islamabad demand land reform, rights to unionize labor, the subordination of the Army to the civilian government, or the development of a state capable of delivering social services to the people of Pakistan (such as, for instance, mass education or employment)?
    You imply that the Lawyers’ Movement and Nawaz Sharif’s party were responsible for the reinstatement of Justice Chaudhury, but you know full well that the Jamat-i-Islami was very much involved. Why twist the facts in this way?
    As for your advocacy of de-linking Afghanistan and Pakistan, do you really believe that the two are de-linked in Taliban strategy? Are not the Pakistani Taliban ideologically, materially, and organizationally linked to the the same elements that the ISI fostered in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s and that were for years so integral to its strategy in Kashmir? Islamism in Afghanistan in a non-trivial if partial sense came from Pakistan, after all.

  23. Arun wrote
    “Maybe the kerfuffle in the press has to do with western skepticism of Pakistani democracy.”

    That is true.” West”(both governments and their cheer leaders in press) loved 11 years of Ayub Khan(Military dictator, agenda;enlightened moderation), “West” loved 11 years of Zia Ul Haq ( Fundamentalist Military dictator,1977-1988, decade of Islamisation,Afghan Jihad, Heroine, Kalashnikov and hypocrisy),West again was spellbound by 8 plus years of Musharraf (Dictator, enlightened modernization, second Afghan war) and in between not a single elected government completed the tenure to see the next election. So the western skepticism of Pakistani democracy is beyond any doubt.

    “What the author does not address is that over the past eight years, the Pakistani state has steadily yielded ground to the Taliban.”

    So from Pakistan democracy (bad) we jump to Pakistan state. Well there you have it. There was no democracy in Pakistan from Oct 1999 to Feb 2008. After Feb. 2008 we have democracy where our armed forces still take direct directions from “West” read USA. So apparently it was not democracy’s fault.

    “The Pakistani Army has time and again fought the Taliban, achieved no results, sued for peace, retreated, and repeated the cycle.”

    From Pakistan state (bad) onto Army, now we are getting somewhere.
    So the questions that beg answers are 1) who “failed to support the maliks who were the pillars of its rule in FATA.” In fact who destroyed the very tribal governance arrangements in place since 1947? Flip side question would be who stopped Pakistan military from decisive victory against Taliban?

    “The Pakistani press (e.g., Dawn, Jang) has time and again pointed out the muddled thinking that prevails, that the US wants to draw Pakistan into its fight with the Taliban and so is funding the Taliban; or that India, for similar reasons, is doing so.”

    From army to Pakistan press, well it is illogical! (Bad)

    “….of Pakistani notables making these arguments on Pakistani television are also there to view. This cognitive dissonance can only come from an unwillingness to fight.”

    From press to Pakistani Notables, equally bad.

    “It is thus equally legitimate to wonder about the willingness of the Pakistani army to fight – its half-million men in uniform is irrelevant – and the end of the Pakistani state begins when this army is no longer reliable.”

    So now we are debating willingness of a army to preserve a bad state. Analogy with British Raj army is perfect. During Raj it was called Indus Army with Headquarters in ,you guessed it, Rawalpindi. Now the higher command of this army serves interests of another Empire. The army men below the rank of Colonel have nothing to do with this imperial adventure, nothing to gain from killing their own brethern in NWFP/FATA/SWAT/North Punjab. That is the crisis of Legitimacy we should be talking about. British had to leave because there was no legitimate reason for them to be in subcontinent in the first place. No Taliban were threatening to invade London and destroy Oxford and Cambridge(because they hated the freedom), when east India company arrived here. Likewise current belligerents (read USA, Pakistan army and religious extremists) have no legitimacy of purpose to vast majority of people inhabiting these areas, that is why this dog and pony show of GWOT is generating more unease and reaction.
    If FAILED STATE means failure of the present setup, subservient to the foreign interests. That will be a good deal for masses.

    “In the case of the Pakistani state, however, the heir apparent is medieval.”

    This statement paints everybody from Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Sufi Muhammad with the same brush. Good luck with finding any takers.

    Arthur Edelstein wrote
    “Couldn’t the Pakistani people be given the chance to throw off the Taliban just the way they threw off Musharraf?”

    That to me is real solution. Anytime when Pakistani public opinion is about to reach a critical mass where it could throw away the Feudal/Mullah/Military/Imperial yoke, there is a general in waiting. So it is essential to narrow both the knowledge and empathy gap among well wishers when it comes to Pakistan. And I commend sepoy’s efforts.

  24. I enjoyed your interview on Democracy Now — it was very informative. But I would quibble with your idea that the Zardari government needs support in its military campaign in the Swat region and elsewhere. Methinks Obama and Gilani toy too lightly with the tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the crossfire. Couldn’t the Pakistani people be given the chance to throw off the Taliban just the way they threw off Musharraf? It seems to me a peaceful strategy of political resistance to the Taliban would be cheaper, more effective, and more humane to the local people. I fear this attack on Swat by the army will compound the human and political damage done by US drones.

  25. What I wrote doesn’t mean that Manan Ahmed is necessarily wrong about the possibility of a Pakistani collapse; it simply means that he has utterly not addressed the issue.

    Actually Sepoy does do this quite clearly in the article. You can agree or disagree with his reasons for dismissing the ‘failed state’ arguement but it is incorrect to claim he does not address it.

    I should further add that when British rule in India collapsed, at least their heirs in whose hands they left the country were committed to some form or other of secularism and of democracy.

    The democracy bit is true; the secularism bit needs some qualification. It was only a very small section of the Congress that was committed to secularism; notably Nehru and the CSP. Gandhi’s assasination and the early death of Patel hobbled those forces that were less favourably inclined towards secularism in India but it is worth noting that Ambedkar resigned in disgust at the resistance of his social reforms to the legal code from Parliament and Nehru had to threaten to resign several times before some parts of the constitution, such as the ban on cow slaughter, were excluded. Secularism as an ideology has only been the preserve of a relatively narrow band of elite opinion for large parts of post-colonial history; the fact that these sections commanded considerable political clout rested on factors other than their secular inclinations and policies and once this influence started to decline; we saw the re-emergence of religious nationalism.

  26. I should further add that when British rule in India collapsed, at least their heirs in whose hands they left the country were committed to some form or other of secularism and of democracy. I don’t want to argue about their competency to achieve such goals, but at least their philosophy was forward looking. In the case of the Pakistani state, however, the heir apparent is medieval.

    1. With global warming looming I have turned into a Luddite myself, but I do feel like coming to the defense of all of those medievalists out there. If by ‘medieval inheritors’ you meant the Taliban then I can just see the ‘moorish’ Andalusians feeling quite insulted by being lumped with the likes of Sufi Mohammad. The Taliban are nothing if not tribal Pashtuns in cultural/social outlook and I do not see much evidence of tribal Pashtuns having run Pakistan in the last half century. If by ‘medieval inheritors’ you meant Punjabi/Sindhi landlords – i.e. ‘feudals’, then this used to be quite fashionable thinking in Pakistan a while ago but I personally find it hard to relate 12th century Europeans with the present day Pakistani elite and historians these days tend to shy clear of the spatio-temporal contradictions such a juxtaposition creates.
      In my humble opinion, a bit more specificity than the ‘medieval’ label would be more helpful for the discussion.

  27. Maybe the kerfuffle in the press has to do with western skepticism of Pakistani democracy. What the author does not address is that over the past eight years, the Pakistani state has steadily yielded ground to the Taliban. It failed to support the maliks who were the pillars of its rule in FATA. The Pakistani Army has time and again fought the Taliban, achieved no results, sued for peace, retreated, and repeated the cycle. The major part of NWFP is effectively under Taliban control.

    The Pakistani press (e.g., Dawn, Jang) has time and again pointed out the muddled thinking that prevails, that the US wants to draw Pakistan into its fight with the Taliban and so is funding the Taliban; or that India, for similar reasons, is doing so. The youtubes of Pakistani notables making these arguments on Pakistani television are also there to view. This cognitive dissonance can only come from an unwillingness to fight. (So deep does this go that the logical argument, if the Taliban are funded by the enemy, India, then the Taliban should be fought as an instrument of India, is never made.)

    When the British ruled India, they were constantly engaged in the evaluation of if and when their half-million-man army would stop fighting on their behalf. The size of the army is irrelevant, as they realized. It is the willingness to fight; and British rule over India ended when the evaluation was that the army would not be reliable any more.

    It is thus equally legitimate to wonder about the willingness of the Pakistani army to fight – its half-million men in uniform is irrelevant – and the end of the Pakistani state begins when this army is no longer reliable.

    What I wrote doesn’t mean that Manan Ahmed is necessarily wrong about the possibility of a Pakistani collapse; it simply means that he has utterly not addressed the issue. The issue of whether the West doesn’t want to support democracy in Pakistan is a sideshow, a distraction.

  28. Congratualtions on the interview! It was refreshing to see someone actually putting Pakistan in context and not just blindly subscribing to the “failed state”/Taliban takoever hype.

    You are absolutely right that the drone attacks are a huge problem, anti-americanism is really high, and the fight against the Taliban is seen largely as “america’s war”. But I think now people are realizing that the Taliban are a major threat to the way of life most Pakistanis want to lead.

  29. I liked the article , in the UAE Sepoy; wouldn’t agree with everything in it but it is such a refreshing read from the other crap circulating around at the moment – and Kudos you know you have made it when you get billed with David Simon!

  30. Wonderful analysis!
    Hmmm, failed state rhetoric & balkanization theories are being combined with the discrediting of the politico-military elite (easy as shooting fish in a barrel)!
    The Army was converted to an unconventional war fighting machine in the 80s to combat Soviet expansion in Afghanistan. Now its conversion to a counter-insurgency force is needed to achieve stability there. A discredited elite scared of revolution will be only too happy to oblige. Eventual blowback on civil society of an Army well-trained in counter-insurgency? Who cares!
    The confluence of Disaster Capitalism and COIN theory at its ‘best’. I guess that is how we will control populations in a time of limited resources.

  31. The chapati stealth infiltration marches onward! I like the revised conclusion, but I wish they’d given you a different photo (more lawyers, fewer guns?) Still, cheers and forward it to everyplace. And I await eagerly the ivory tower version.

    1. many thanks to you! working, now, on the ivory tower version. (more research, yaay….)

  32. Check out Wisconsin Public Radio’s interview of an “expert” on Pakistan.

    “For Program On: Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 7:00 AM
    President Obama met with Mid East leaders yesterday (Wednesday) seeking assurances that Pakistan is willing to fight against the Taliban. After seven, Joy Cardin’s guest says making sure Pakistan protects its nuclear arsenal is of critical importance to keep America safe. Guest: Steven David, Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University. Author, ‘Catastrophic Consequences: Civil Wars and American Interests.’ ”

    Click “Listen to Archive”

    http://www.wpr.org/cardin/index.cfm?strDirection=Prev&dteShowDate=2009%2D05%2D07%2008%3A00%3A00

  33. I enjoyed reading your analysis as always. Ram Guha repeats ad hominem in India After Gandhi that till the mid 80’s almost every Western journalist predicted the imminent Balkanisation of India. I am not sure what to make of this comparative piece of information, excepts that discourses can be challenged or displaced by changing material conditions.

  34. Sepoy,

    This is just out of curiosity… Did you find any books before 1990 that used the exact phrase “failed state”? I just tend to this that this specific label is a post-Cold War invention, even though the Euro-centric judgment on which it is based is probably dates back to the Peace of Westphalia if not earlier…

    Best, V.

    1. There are a few scattered references to the exact phrase in the 70s, picks up steam in the 80s but yes, its is post 90s when it blooms.

  35. I <3 AMY GOODMAN! I listened to your interview this morning and that’s how i discovered your blog actually and now i’m a fan! I just finished a class on the cold war today.. it was sad, and my professor hardly mentioned Pakistan, Afghanistan and India so i didn’t really learn what happened to these countries during the cold war.

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