To be an Indian in Kabul is to be greeted warmly wherever you go, whether it is negotiating a security barrier or seeking a meeting with a government official. There is an easing of tensions (in Afghanistan, the fear uppermost in the mind is that the stranger at the door could be an attacker and you don't have too long to judge), Bollywood is almost immediately mentioned, and your hosts will go out of their way to help.To be a Pakistani is a bit more fraught. The body search is rigorous, the questioning hostile, and, more often than not, you have to be rescued by a Western colleague especially if you are entering one of those heavily guarded, unmarked restaurants frequented by foreigners.To the ordinary Afghan, India and Pakistan have followed two different paths in the country beginning from the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 when there was hope in the air and you could walk in the streets of Kabul (instead of trying to escape it) to the current time when the Taliban have fought back and hold the momentum as the West withdraws after a long and ultimately, unsuccessful engagement.While the Indians have been applauded for helping build roads, getting power lines into the capital, running hospitals and arranging for hundreds of students to pursue higher education in India, the Pakistanis are accused of the violence that Afghans see all around them, from the attacks in the capital to the fighting on the border and the export of militant Islam. It's become reflexive: minutes into an attack, the blame shifts to Pakistan. "They must have done it."A Rand study into the differing strategies adopted by the rivals in Afghanistan quotes a 2009 BBC/ABC News/ARD poll which showed that 86 percent of Afghans thought Pakistan had a negative influence in Afghanistan, with only 5 percent saying it had made a positive contribution. India's impact, by contrast, was seen as positive by 41 percent of Afghans and negative by only 10 percent. Overall, 74 percent of Afghans held a favourable view of India against 8 percent of those who had a positive impression about Pakistan.Quite a stunning reversal from the time when Afghanistan under King Zahir Shah supported Pakistan in the 1965 and 1971 wars against India.Since that opinion poll, things have only gotten worse for Pakistan, with the breakdown in its ties with the United States, principally over the sanctuaries that American officials say militants enjoy in Pakistan's northwest, adding to its sense of isolation.With America leaving while the fires still burn in Afghanistan, India may well be the country best positioned to pick up some of the slack, the authors of the Rand study, Larry Hanauer and Peter Chalk, argue.
He called his new approach to domestic policy "compassionate conservatism."For years, I've criticized "compassionate conservatism" as an insult to traditional conservatism and an affront to all things libertarian.Bush liked to say that he was a "different kind of Republican," that he was a "compassionate conservative."I hated -- and still hate -- that formulation. Imagine if someone said, "I'm a different kind of Catholic (or Jew, or American, etc.): I'm a compassionate Catholic." The insinuation was -- by my lights, at least -- that conservatives who disagreed with him and his "strong-government conservatism" were somehow lacking in compassion.As a candidate, Bush distanced himself from the Gingrich "revolutionaries" of the 1994 Congress, and he criticized social conservatives such as Robert Bork, who had written an admittedly uncheery book, Slouching towards Gomorrah. He talked endlessly about what a tough job single mothers have and scolded his fellow conservatives for failing to see that "family values don't end at the Rio Grande." As president, he said that "when somebody hurts, government has got to move." According to compassionate conservatives, reflexive anti-statism on the right is foolish, for there are many important -- and conservative -- things the state can do right.
After 50 years, the famine still cannot be freely discussed in the place where it happened. My book "Tombstone" could be published only in Hong Kong, Japan and the West. It remains banned in mainland China, where historical amnesia looms large and government control of information and expression has tightened during the Communist Party's 18th National Congress, which began last week and will conclude with a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.Those who deny that the famine happened, as an executive at the state-run newspaper People's Daily recently did, enjoy freedom of speech, despite their fatuous claims about "three years of natural disasters." But no plague, flood or earthquake ever wrought such horror during those years. One might wonder why the Chinese government won't allow the true tale to be told, since Mao's economic policies were abandoned in the late 1970s in favor of liberalization, and food has been plentiful ever since.The reason is political: a full exposure of the Great Famine could undermine the legitimacy of a ruling party that clings to the political legacy of Mao, even though that legacy, a totalitarian Communist system, was the root cause of the famine. As the economist Amartya Sen has observed, no major famine has ever occurred in a democracy.
President Barack Obama's proposal to reduce the deficit by $1.561 trillion over the next decade includes more than 70 changes in the tax code that would affect everyone from high-income Americans to options traders, as well as oil and gas companies, and even some golf courses.
To address the "fiscal cliff," both the Washington Post and USA Today propose spending cuts on entitlement programs.The USA Today editorial headline screams "Cut entitlements to control debt." "Yes," it continues, "taxes need to go up, and not just for the wealthiest Americans. And yes, there's room for cuts in the Pentagon and other federal departments. But changes in these areas, as needed as they may be, would still be overwhelmed by the burst in spending on Social Security and Medicare as the Baby Boom generation retires and lifespans increase."The Washington Post, working off the same talking points, writes, "Any serious debt-reduction plan has to include revenue and defense cuts. But no serious one can exclude entitlements."So, um, if entitlement cuts are such an important part of addressing the fiscal cliff, then why didn't the media demand that Obama discuss entitlements in his campaign?Oh, I remember. They were part of the liberal effort to scare seniors into thinking that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan--who talked about Medicare and Medicaid reform--would be the ones cutting entitlements.