October 11, 2009


Why Islamic Extremists Hate India (Salil Tripathi, October 11, 2009, Far Eastern Economic Review)

There is also deeper animosity. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, India initially criticized the Soviet action, but then stopped doing so, once the occupation was in place. While India did not welcome Soviet presence in Kabul, it was also alarmed by the flow of arms into Pakistan to assist the mujahideen, which boosted not only fundamentalist forces in the region, but also bolstered the military dictatorship of Zia-ul Haq in Pakistan. Just as the U.S. was willing to ally with the mujahideen because that short term partnership was more important to achieve the strategic objective of bleeding the Soviets, India despaired, fearing that the weapons Pakistan was receiving may be used against India some day. The Taliban now represents the ugliest face of the mujahideen, and they are no fans of India. Taliban has strong links with Pakistani intelligence, which has long believed in low-intensity warfare with India. For the Taliban who want to settle historical scores, India remains a target, because from their perspective, India sided with the Soviets.

Then there is the Indian soft power, which can corrode the kind of austere lifestyle the Taliban would like to impose again in Afghanistan. Afghans like Bollywood films – Jon Lee Anderson’s reporting from Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul for the New Yorker magazine showed how young Taliban conscripts carried photographs of Bollywood stars, and some even played Bollywood songs on their cassette players. Cricket is another passion the Afghans share with Indians; the Afghan cricket team is making impressive strides internationally. For the stern Islamist view that the Taliban holds, Indian influence is wrong. The imams fulminate against the West and its decadence; India, to its East, represents similar hedonism, is closer, makes films in a language Afghans understand, and must be shunned.

But more than anything else, India is a danger because by its pluralistic nature it is a real threat for Islamic extremists. Not only does India have the world’s third-largest Muslim population (Pakistan finally overtook India recently), despite domestic differences with the majority Hindus, Indian Muslims have remained loyal to the Indian state, and have fully embraced democracy. While many Muslims live in poverty in India, so do other Indians, including Hindus. And Muslims alone are not victims of human rights abuses in India. What’s more, talented Muslims have often reached the top of Indian corporations, judiciary, armed forces, bureaucracy, and other fields, entirely on merit. They are able to express their grievances through the democratic system. It is no surprise, then, that of all the recruits al Qaeda has been able to attract around the world, barely a handful of Indian Muslims have been swayed by al Qaeda’s nihilist ideology.

This is not an accident; it is the result of India’s democratic structure.

The most obvious geostrategic accomplishment of George W. Bush was liberalization in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Liberia, Haiti, The Lebanon, Palestine, Liberia, The Sudan (southern Sudan), Indonesia, etc., and the election of pro-American regimes in place of anti-US in Canada, Germany, and France. More subtle, and, therefore, easier for ideologues on Left and Right to misunderstand, was the way both the Anglosphere and the wider Axis of Good were more closely knit together. In particular, Columbia and Brazil were brought on board in Latin America, India, Mongolia, The Philippines, and Indonesia in Asia, and former captive nations of the USSR in Eastern Europe. The task was made easy by three big factors: (1) common enemies--China, Russia, narcoterrorists, Bolivarism, and Islamicism, (2) the desire of these developing states to be treated like they matter; and, (3) the economic benefits they could potentially reap by trading freely with us. But, however simple the endeavor was in practice, it required a certain vision to see that it existed and that the effort was worthwhile because a concert of democracies could provide tangible global good.

These fields were always likely to lie a tad fallow after W left office, what with two senators vying to replace him--one does not look to legislatures for strategic thinking. But John McCain does at least think militarily and retains a healthy hatred of our enemies. Barack Obama though combines an astonishing lack of thoughtfulness where long-term strategy is concerned with a desperate need to be liked, even by our enemies. In both domestic and foreign affairs this has made him prone to alienate friends in a bid to eke out short term gains by appealing to foes.

Thus, he has taken a series of steps that appear, objectively, designed to punish our friends in the world and reward the shared enemies. He opposes the constitutional government of Honduras and blocks the trade treaties with allies like Colombia. He plays kissy face with the PRC, Burma, The Sudan, Iran and North Korea. He ditches the missile shield in Eastern Europe because Putin doesn't like it. He decides it's okay for The Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan. In the process, he hangs Israel, India, South Korea, Japan, Poland, the Czechs, etc., etc., etc. out to dry.

It's kind of funny when he screws his own friends over at home--single-payer types, the gun lobby, gays, abortionists, peaceniks, the ACLU, etc. But it is not okay to treat our friends abroad so shabbily. Contra the CW, he inherited an incredibly easy foreign situation from W. It is he who will leave behind some heavy lifting for his successor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2009 6:41 AM
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