Book Review Folder - 2005/2006/2007

Paul
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Postby Paul » 21 Sep 2006 08:04

There is a new Book by Stanley Wolpert on "Partition of India" at B&N.

I read the foreword in some detail. He is primarily blaming MountBatten and Gandhi for the partition massacres by acquiscing in Patel's insistence on breakup of Punjab and Bengal. Mountbatten is held responsible for moving up the independence date by 10 months and not anticipating the commnual hatred.

Will post a more detailed summary after my next trip to BN. No point wasting money buying this chameleon's books.

I think Anglo-Saxon Historians like Wolpert can sense the growing self confidence of the Indians and are repositioning themselves accordingly. Jholawalas will obviously listen to HMV and change their tune as well.

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Postby svinayak » 24 Sep 2006 05:05


The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West
by Niall Ferguson



Publisher Comments:
Niall Fergusson's most important book to date-a revolutionary reinterpretation of the modern era that resolves its central paradox: why unprecedented progress coincided with unprecedented violence and why the seeming triumph of the West bore the seeds of its undoing. From the conflicts that presaged the First World War to the aftershocks of the cold war, the twentieth century was by far the bloodiest in all of human history. How can we explain the astonishing scale and intensity of its violence when, thanks to the advances of science and economics, most people were better off than ever before-eating better, growing taller, and living longer? Wherever one looked, the world in 1900 offered the happy prospect of ever-greater interconnection. Why, then, did global progress descend into internecine war and genocide? Drawing on a pioneering combination of history, economics, and evolutionary theory, Niall Ferguson-one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People-masterfully examines what he calls the age of hatred and sets out to explain what went wrong with modernity. On a quest that takes him from the Siberian steppe to the plains of Poland, from the streets of Sarajevo to the beaches of Okinawa, Ferguson reveals an age turned upside down by economic volatility, multicultural communities torn apart by the irregularities of boom and bust, an era poisoned by the idea of irreconcilable racial differences, and a struggle between decaying old empires and predatory new states. Who won the war of the world? We tend to assume it was the West. Some even talk of the American century. But for Ferguson, the biggest upshot of twentieth-century upheaval was the decline of Western dominance overAsia. Read India A work of revelatory interpretive power, The War of the World is Niall Ferguson's masterwork.
Review:
"Why, if life was improving so rapidly for so many people at the dawn of the 20th century, were the next hundred years full of brutal conflict? Ferguson (Colossus) has a relatively simple answer: ethnic unrest is prone to break out during periods of economic volatility — booms as well as busts. When they take place in or near areas of imperial decline or transition, the unrest is more likely to escalate into full-scale conflict. This compelling theory is applicable to the Armenian genocide in Turkey, the slaughter of the Tutsis in Rwanda or the 'ethnic cleansing' perpetrated against Bosnians, but the overwhelming majority of Ferguson's analysis is devoted to the two world wars and the fate of the Jews in Germany and eastern Europe. His richly informed analysis overturns many basic assumptions. For example, he argues that England's appeasement of Hitler in 1938 didn't lead to WWII, but was a misinformed response to a war that had started as early as 1935. But with Ferguson's claims about 'the descent of the West' and the smaller wars in the latter half of the century tucked away into a comparatively brief epilogue, his thoughtful study falls short of its epic promise. (Sept. 25)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Review:
"A sweeping and handsomely controlled narrative....Even those who have read widely in 20th-century history will find fresh, surprising details." Boston Globe
Review:
"[T]hought-provoking, highly engaging, and nearly impossible-to-put-down book." Library Journal
Review:
"A lucid, blood-soaked study that will give no comfort to those pining for peace in our time." Kirkus Reviews
Synopsis:
Ferguson reinterpretes the modern era and the central paradox of why unprecedented progress coincided with unprecedented violence, and why the seeming triumph of the West bore the seeds of its undoing.

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Postby ramana » 24 Sep 2006 05:53

NF is the only post WarII scholar to understand the loss of India to the British Empire and the West. The others were into dividing games and deluding the Americans as if they needed it.

What has turned the worth of India is the post reform India which has managed most of the challenges thrown at it. I credit this to the people who have a canny sense of whats right.

To really understand his work one has to read an older book, Asia and Western Dominiance: From Vasco Da Gama to 1947 by K.M. Pannikar. If you are lucky you can get this on Amazon used books for $3 Plus shipping.

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Postby svinayak » 24 Sep 2006 06:27

*"Beyond *Western* Hegemonies" *
by Giovanni Arrighi (arrighi@jhu.edu), Iftikhar Ahmad & Miin-wen Shih
http://www.marion.ohio-state.edu/fac/vs ... gemony.pdf




When the twentieth century opened, European power in *Asia* and
Africa stood at its zenith; no nation, it seemed, could withstand the
superiority of European arms and commerce. Sixty years later only
the vestiges of European domination remained. Between 1945 and
1960 no less than forty countries... revolted against colonialism and
won their independence. Never before in the whole of human
history had so revolutionary a reversal occurred with such rapidity.
The change in the position of the peoples of *Asia* and Africa and in
their relations with Europe was the surest sign of the advent of a
new era, and when the history of the first half of the twentieth
century--which, for most historians, is still dominated by European
wars and European problems... comes to be written in a longer
perspective, there is little doubt that no single theme will prove to
be of greater importance than the revolt against the west. (1967,
153-4)

As argued in Chapter 3, US hegemony was thoroughly shaped by this
first successful round of revolt against the West, so that non-*Western*
peoples and governments actually ceased to be mere objects of *Western* history at least one century prior to the advent of Huntington's
"politics of civilizations." In what follows, we shall trace the origins of this
first round of revolt against the West to the clash of civilizations that has
characterized *Western* intrusions in *Asia* from the very start.


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Postby Laks » 25 Sep 2006 02:23


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Postby svinayak » 26 Sep 2006 06:39

Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Hardcover)
by James Bamford (Author)

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/bamford/home.html


Everybody knows about the CIA--the cloak-and-dagger branch of the U.S. government. Many fewer are familiar with the National Security Agency, even though it has been more important to American espionage in recent years than its better-known counterpart. The NSA is responsible for much of the intelligence gathering done via technology such as satellites and the Internet. Its home office in Maryland "contains what is probably the largest body of secrets ever created."

Little was known about the agency's confidential culture until veteran journalist James Bamford blew the lid off in 1982 with his bestseller The Puzzle Palace. Still, much remained in the shadows. In Body of Secrets, Bamford throws much more light on his subject--and he reveals loads of shocking information. The story of the U-2 crisis in 1960 is well known, including President Eisenhower's decision to tell a fib to the public in order to protect a national-security secret. Bamford takes the story a disturbing step forward, showing how Eisenhower "went so far as to order his Cabinet officers to hide his involvement in the scandal even while under oath. At least one Cabinet member directly lied to the committee, a fact known to Eisenhower." Even more worrisome is another revelation, from the Kennedy years: "The Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government. In the name of anticommunism, they proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba."

Body of Secrets is an incredible piece of journalism, and it paints a deeply troubling portrait of an agency about which the public knows next to nothing. Fans of The Sword and the Shield will want to read it, as will anybody who is intrigued by conspiracies and real-life spy stories. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly
The National Security Agency (NSA), writes Bamford, has made the United States an "eavesdropping superpower," capable of capturing, deciphering and analyzing "signal intelligence"communicationsin whatever form it may exist and from whatever nation it may be transmitted. Yet with a budget ($4 billion a year) and staff (numbering in the tens of thousands) that dwarf its more famous cousin, the CIA, and with a headquarters, known as "Crypto City," that is its own self-contained community, little is known of NSA among the public and, more troublingly, even within other parts of government. Uncovering the secrets of NSA, its history and operations, has become Bamford's life's work, first begun in his now classic The Puzzle Palace (1982) and continued in this significantly revised and expanded present volume. With remarkable access to highly sensitive documents and information, Bamford takes the reader from the beginnings of NSA during the early cold war, through its roles in such watershed events as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, to the amazingly sophisticated developments in information technology taking place within NSA today. What Bamford discovers is at times surprising, often quite troubling but always fascinating. In his conclusion, he is at once awed and deeply disturbed by what NSA can now do: ever more sophisticated surveillance techniques can mean ever greater assaults on the basic right of individual privacy. In a computer system that can store five trillion pages of text, anyone and everyone can be monitored. Writing with a flair and clarity that rivals those of the best spy novelists, Bamford has created a masterpiece of investigative reporting. (On-sale date: Apr. 24)Forecast: Bamford will be doing national media, including NBC's Today show and NPR's Fresh Air. This is the stuff spy thrillers are made from: The Puzzle Palace was a bestseller, and this will be, too.


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Postby svinayak » 26 Sep 2006 06:54

Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil
by Michael C. Ruppert


This is a detective story that gets to the innermost core of the 9/11 attacks. It places 9/11 at the center of a desperate new America, created by specific, named individuals in preparation for Peak Oil: an economic crisis like nothing the world has ever seen.

The attacks of September 11th, 2001 were accomplished through an amazing orchestration of logistics and personnel. Crossing the Rubicon discovers and identifies the key suspects and persons of interest - finding some of them in the highest echelons of American government - by showing how they acted in concert to guarantee that the attacks occurred and produced the desired result.

ISBN #0-86571-540-8
(approx 675 pages with illustrations)
New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada)
$15.99 (US)

"In my book I make several key points:

1. I name Vice President Richard Cheney as the prime suspect in the mass murders of 9/11 and will establish that, not only was he a planner in the attacks, but also that on the day of the attacks he was running a completely separate Command, Control and Communications system which was superceding any orders being issued by the FAA, the Pentagon, or the White House Situation Room;

2. I establish conclusively that in May of 2001, by presidential order, Richard Cheney was put in direct command and control of all wargame and field exercise training and scheduling through several agencies, especially FEMA. This also extended to all of the conflicting and overlapping NORAD drills -- some involving hijack simulations -- taking place on that day.

3. I demonstrate that the TRIPOD II exercise being set up on Sept. 10th in Manhattan was directly connected to Cheney's role in the above.

4. I also prove conclusively that a number of public officials, at the national and New York City levels, including then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, were aware that flight 175 was en route to lower Manhattan for 20 minutes and did nothing to order the evacuation of, or warn the occupants of the South Tower. One military officer was forced to leave his post in the middle of the attacks and place a private call to his brother - who worked at the WTC - warning him to get out. That was because no other part of the system was taking action.

5. I also show that the Israeli and British governments acted as partners with the highest levels of the American government to help in the preparation and, very possibly, the actual execution of the attacks."


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Postby shyamd » 29 Sep 2006 22:36

China and India on the Development Path

Economic Reforms and Performance: China and India in Comparative Perspective
by Subramanian Swamy;
Konark Publishers,
Delhi, 2003; Hardbound,
pp 308, Rs 500.
Ashwini Deshpande

India-China comparisons are eternally appealing and justifiably so. They are two large, very populous Asian countries, with similar economic conditions in the late 1940s when both were on the eve of major socio-political transformations. There is a persistent belief, certainly in the Indian scholarship on China, that the similarity between the two countries ought to have persisted post-1947-49. However, what this belief ignores or fails to understand is that the development paths that the two countries chose were very different and that led to two distinct trajectories of development. Hence, there are repeated analyses of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of these differences; which has thrown up a lot of comparative research of uneven quality. The volume under review is yet another contribution to this corpus. The author is well known and has been engaged in this enterprise for a while now; in fact, a lot of the statistical data in this book draws upon his earlier estimates, published elsewhere. As we will see later, this is often a problem, since we have no basis, in the current volume, to understand how he arrived at the figures he reports.

There are four questions that the author chooses to address: One, differences in the initial conditions between India and China and their implications for future developments. Two, has there been convergence or divergence between the two countries? Three, what are the differences in equity, globalisation and financial architecture and four, the eternal question: will India catch up (this time by 2025)? Unfortunately, the answers provided in the volume lack sufficient depth and analytical rigour, leaving us no wiser at the end of it all. The odd chapterisation does not help either. The 300-page volume is divided into five chapters, of which one (economic growth and reforms in comparative perspective, 1980-2000) is over 200 pages long! This makes reading difficult.

The volume begins with a historical comparison that is both brief and superficial. The author points out that between 1947 and 1950, China was already more advanced in terms of foodgrain production since Indian foodgrain production had declined. The explanation given is that Indian agriculture was feudal whereas Chinese agriculture was not feudal but bureaucratic! At the same time, the author argues that Indian per capita income was greater than that of China’s in 1950 and that India also had a better transport network. Given that both were predominantly agricultural economies, it is not clear what the source of the higher Indian per capita income was.

One ideological attitude, that has a veneer of objectivity, but that often hampers rigorous inquiry in the context of Chinese studies is strident anti-communism. The volume under review is no exception to this, and thus, we find bald generalisations such as, “both countries…till 1980 had gradually squandered the legacy of their respective liberation struggles and public goodwill by adopting the unsuitable Soviet planning framework for developmentâ€

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Postby svinayak » 01 Oct 2006 21:36


State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
(Hardcover)
by Bob Woodward





President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It's a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in 'Bush at War,' his 2002 book, which depicted the president -- in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed -- as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the 'vision thing' his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state. "As this new book's title indicates, Mr. Woodward now sees Mr. Bush as a president who lives in a state of willful denial about the worsening situation in Iraq...."New York Times

All of the advanced press for this book has opened old wounds. Or should I say wounds that have been festering. Many of us have had our doubts about the Iraq War, but now many of our doubts are realized. Mr. Woodward, with the assistance of 75 people in the administration, President Bush included, has given us a first hand version of what we have all feared. We have been duped. We have heard stories from those who have left the administration, that the War was hatched by Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Rumsfeld, and fed to the President. President Bush knew when he agreed to enter into Afghanistan after 9/11 that Iraq was the next stop. VP Cheney had an organized mission to get Saddam and to render him useless. General Powell saw this and tried to stop the madness but nothing was to be gained. We went to Iraq, and if we had had a competent plan we could have ended the war within the first 3 weeks. Here we are now 4 years later and the War is taking its toll. According to Bob Woodward's book, there is an insurgent attack every 15 minutes against our soldiers, that is 100 attacks a week, we the public were not told of the severity of the attacks. Yet we hear of the body bags returning ion a daily basis.

The entire White House staff was at odds over the war and to this day the conflict continues. Colin Powell followed the President, only because he is such a good soldier. It should be noted that those who were in opposition are no longer at the White House. President Bush stays assured that he is following the right path. "Woodward also tells Wallace that aged Republican war-horse Henry Kissinger is closely advising Bush, telling him there is no exit strategy other than victory."Woodward adds. 'This is so fascinating. Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will.'

"President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, 'I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.'" Washington Post.

This is a book for every American to read. Interviews with the top people involved can only give a story that is to be believed. Bob Woodward has written this book in his usual style. He interviews the people who know what wss going on,many of them behind the sidelines, and then reports the facts as they were told. He gives us a timeline and a sense that this war was well planned. The generals who would lead this war, in particular Gen. Tommy Franks, had a year in which to plan and to build the infrastructure necessary for a war that this administration found to be apt and just. We are learning that all is not what it seemed, and we are left to pick up the pieces of this war. How did this happen? Why have we allowed this to continue? Questions with answers that are just beginning to surface.

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Postby ramana » 04 Oct 2006 21:24

Book Review from Pioneer, 4 oct. 2006
Pen, sword and candlelight

Utpal Kumar

Scoop!, Kuldip Nayar; Harper Collins, Rs 250

Scoop is not just narratives by Kuldip Nayar, an insider of many important events in India's contemporary history. It is, in fact, India's journey from a starving British colony to a vibrant democracy, with its share of glory and disgrace. It is a first-hand account of India's political history, along with Nayar's personal insight into the "motives" and "machinations" that conspired to bring them. What gives greater authenticity to the writer's claims is his closeness to the corridors of power, thus influencing the decision-making of the powers-that-be and, in the process, getting influenced by them.

From personal encounters with Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi to interviews with Lord Mountbatten, Cyril Radcliffe, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul Haq, Nayar's Scoops are as much a testament of the times as they are of his "uncanny ability to anticipate news".

Born in Sialkot (now in Pakistan), in 1924, and a victim of the excessively communalised Partition era, Kuldip Nayar came to Delhi where he started his journalistic career with Anjam (consequence) - the first newspaper he worked with. No wonder he observes with a bit of sarcasm, "My agaz (beginning) was from anjaam... " This upside-down phenomenon in his life was evident when he was given - quite early in his career - the opportunity to report the tragic death of Gandhi. It is here that Nayar got the first flavour of cynical obsession for political correctness when he heard Defence Minister Baldev Singh saying, "Thank god, the killer is not a Punjabi. He is not a Muslim either."

Nayar then moves on to challenge the very basis of Partition, in his typically soft but incisive manner. "I nearly gave you Lahore," Radcliffe, the man who drew the India-Pakistan boundary, told Nayar, "but then I realised that Pakistan would not have any large city. I had already marked Calcutta to India." The hollowness of the idea of Partition was, thus, exposed beyond redemption.

The plot of Scoop gets interesting with the maturity of Nayar as a journalist. In fact, it is in the mid-1960s that Nayar comes out with some startling revelations, thanks to his intimacy with Shastri. Even his earlier book, Between The Lines, based on the political culture of the turbulent '60s, which according to Ramchandra Guha was "perhaps the first non-fiction bestseller in India", was so popular in those days that "Delhi panwallahs would stock it; unable to change a hundred rupee note in full, they would offer their clients copies of the book".

Nayar touches a new height during the mid-1960s. He makes Shastri confess, "I am not as much of a sadhu as you imagine me to be." He paints an entirely new picture, without saying so in as many words, of Shastri, the past master in the game of understatement. Shastri kept a low profile, avoided confrontation, but never lost sight of his prime ministerial ambition. At one time, he seemed to have used the services of the writer to checkmate the prime ministerial aspiration of Morarji Desai, forcing him to voluntarily opt out of the race. Though Nayar may not fully agree, but he subconsciously accepts the fact of playing into the hands of Shastri when he writes that the latter had "a way of getting things done". So domineering was his hold over governance that at one point of time Indira Gandhi was pondering over the idea of settling down in the UK, if her close associate Dinesh Singh is to be believed. At the same time, Shastri was a conscientious person who could not but feel dejected when his family members did not like the 1965 Tashkent treaty. Shastri observed: "Agar gharwalon ko achchha nahi laga, to bahar wale kya kahengay? " (If the family has not liked it, how will outsiders react?). Nayar, thus, provides the clue to Shastri's unnatural death without saying as much.

Thereafter, Nayar moves on to the Indira Gandhi era and his(KN's) prime obsession - Pakistan. Here 'Kuldip Nayar the journalist' transforms into 'Kuldip Nayar the activist', objectivity gives way to passion and misplaced advocacy replaces journalistic detachment. He becomes too big to be a journalist, "with whom nobody dared to take tea... in those (Emergency) days", as noted by BN Tandon, an officer in the PMO, in his diary. However, in those dark days when almost all pillars of democracy - the bureaucracy, the Press and the judiciary - submitted to the executive dictatorship, Nayar showed the way and, in the process, spent most of the time in prison. In his distinctive sense of humour, Nayar observes: "Imprisonment is like virginity. After losing it you develop an attitude where it does not matter how many times you are ravished again."

Then comes Nayar's Waterloo - his proverbial weakness for Pakistan and obsession for Track-II. If there is one aspect where Kuldip Nayar could not perform up to his reputation as scoop-master, it is with Pakistani rulers. Everyone from ZA Bhutto to Zia-ul Haq seems to have exploited his uncanny sense of news to forward anti-India interests. After the 1971 debacle, Pakistani authorities convinced Nayar, who in turn persuaded the Indian leadership, that Bhutto should be treated gently as "he would run into difficulties in his own country", paving the way for the Army. Hence, India lost on the diplomatic table at Shimla what it had gained at the battlefield in Dhaka. Similarly, Zia-ul Haq allowed the possession of nuclear know-how with Pakistani authorities to be leaked to Nayar in order to warn India to be more circumspect in its relationship with its immediate neighbour in the west. Nayar regarded it as a scoop, but in reality he was nothing more than a pawn in the Pakistani gameplan. No wonder the writer has been the most sought after journalist in Islamabad, despite all his claims to the contrary.

Scoop is like a typical B-grade Bollywood flick; it starts slowly with Gandhi's death, picks up momentum during the Shastri era, but messes up with the plot towards the end in the latter half of the Indira Gandhi phase. In one aspect, however, where Nayar never misses the track is his art of storytelling, which flows with minimal of hiccups despite dealing with so many contrasting historical personalities. The book is a repository of knowledge, especially for those who crave understanding India's political culture.



I read his Between the Lines and the later book on the Syndicate Wars. People should reflect how outsiders(Not just Westerners) always exploited the Indian ego to make them work against national interests.

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Postby svinayak » 05 Oct 2006 00:00

I read his Between the Lines and the later book on the Syndicate Wars. People should reflect how outsiders(Not just Westerners) always exploited the Indian ego to make them work against national interests.



This complex use of prominent people to influence decision makers is so obvious with these people that future generation will look at them as so naive - not to understand the interest of the country.

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Postby Paul » 05 Oct 2006 00:16

Acharya:

I have observed this kind of behaviour in older generation people in matters matters as well.

I read "Between the lines" when I was 15. Don't remember much of it except that there are 3 - 4 sections in it, one of them on the 1962 war and another on the feud between IG and the Syndicate. The book leaves a melancholy taste in your mouth. While KN is right to be cynical wrt to Indian politicos, he tends to put Indian successes down on every occasion. (Ramana, please jump in if you see the need to correct me on anything).

For ex: He says the humiliation of Indian diplomats in the cultural revolution is revenge for the 1967 Nathu La reverse suffered by PRC. Why did he link the two? Pakistan humiliated our diplomats all the time in Pindi does that mean it has taken it's revenge for the 1971 defeat.

I think he does not like to give India the last word in any exchange with China or Pak....hope he kicks the bucket soon.

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Postby JE Menon » 05 Oct 2006 11:01

Any respect I had for this guy went down the drain after I started reading his column criticising India and processes inherent in the Indian democratic system in the Saudi Gazette in the 1990s.

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Postby JCage » 05 Oct 2006 11:26

Acharya wrote:
I read his Between the Lines and the later book on the Syndicate Wars. People should reflect how outsiders(Not just Westerners) always exploited the Indian ego to make them work against national interests.



This complex use of prominent people to influence decision makers is so obvious with these people that future generation will look at them as so naive - not to understand the interest of the country.


This member of the future generation who came after Nayyar looks at him with intense contempt, for having sold out his country just so that he could assuage his partition angst.

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Postby Ashok » 05 Oct 2006 11:56

Could anyone (Shiv perhaps?) give a brief review / opinion of Arun Shourie's The World of Fatwas? Thanks in advance!

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Postby svinayak » 17 Oct 2006 00:48

Sikhs, Swamis, Students and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States, 1900-1946 (Hardcover)
by Harold Gould


Sikhs, Swamis, Students and Spies is a fascinating and absorbing history of the India lobby in America during the pre-independence era—a little known chapter in the history of modern India.

It documents the travails of early Indian migrants to North America and Canada from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the Second World War. It captures their prolonged struggle for obtaining civil rights, and in promoting the cause of India’s freedom beyond the borders of the subcontinent.

Based on literature and insights drawn from not-easily-accessible sources, the book is interspersed with narratives and also provides biographical sketches of the key actors, both Indian and American.

It examines their role in the origin and development of the India lobby in the US and Canada—in the face of determined racist opposition in both countries—and Britain’s efforts to disrupt their attempts to organize themselves politically.

Overall the author vividly documents the community’s journey from the beginnings of politicisation to the height of political lobbying during the Second World War.

About the author

Sikhs, Swamis, Students and Spies is by Harold A Gould from the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

". . .fascinating, multi-layered study of the South Asians’ quest for social justice in the United States and Canada, meticulously researched and at the same time very readable."

--Ainslee T. Embree, from the Foreword

This book is a fascinating history of the India lobby in America in the pre-independence era - a little known chapter in the history of modern India. It documents the travails of early Indian migrants to North America and Canada from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of World War II. It captures their prolonged struggle for obtaining civil rights, and promoting the cause of India’s freedom beyond the borders of the subcontinent.

Based on literature and insights dispersed in not easily accessible sources, the book is interspersed with narratives and also provides biographical sketches of the key actors -both Indian and American. It examines their role in the origin and development of the India lobby in the US and Canada, highlighting the community’s journey from the beginnings of politicization to the height of political lobbying during the Second World War.

Lucidly written and vastly engrossing, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of politics, history, sociology, and, of course, the lay reader.

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Postby ShauryaT » 17 Oct 2006 04:07

Ashok wrote:Could anyone (Shiv perhaps?) give a brief review / opinion of Arun Shourie's The World of Fatwas? Thanks in advance!
If you ever wanted one single book that shoots it straight with irrefutable evidence and understand the entire gamut of relationships between the Fatwas, the sects, the Hadiths, the Quran, the people involved, the politics, the mullahs and also some comparitive Shariah based laws in other islamic counties and make sense of it all, especially in an Indian context then that book has to be the world of Fatwas.

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Postby ramana » 17 Oct 2006 22:00

Another book review of Jaswant Singh's book

Defending Jaswant
Jaswant Singh's A Call to Honour:In Service of Emergent India deserves an unbiased read

Hindustan Times July 26, 2006

There are several lenses through which you can read Jaswant Singh’s memoir, A Call to Honour. You could use one which is fashioned by those who think that everything the NDA government did was bad, and so the book is nothing but hagiography. Or you could use one made by those who think that close Indo-US ties are the worst thing that can happen to India. There is, of course, the third way of looking at things — of being objective, insofar as objectivity is possible with events that are so proximate. This requires a focus on the book through the political dynamics of our era, without necessarily calling people names, seeking conspiracies where there are none, or, for that matter, being distracted by Singh’s ponderous, even pedantic, prose and his irritating, almost child-like tendency to show off his erudition.
We live very much in the era that the book describes. The political trends it depicts are still with us, since their term is not coterminous with a government or a ministry, or the incumbency of a person in a particular office. They are those relating to the massive effort to reform the country’s economic system, promote economic growth at a pace that will actually dent poverty, defeat the challenge posed by terrorist violence and assert India’s strategic autonomy.
The UPA approach in these areas is not very different from that of the NDA because such policies are, often, not based on subjective desires but on external circumstance. Pakistan’s decision, for example, to maintain the ceasefire on the LoC has not changed, as neither has the US desire to befriend India. What is striking is the continuity of policies between the UPA and the NDA in economic, foreign and security policies — whether it is raising the limit of FDI in the insurance sector, permitting 26 per cent FDI in retail, negotiating the nuclear agreement with the US or a border settlement with China. What may have changed are nuances brought on mainly by changed personalities who make and articulate policy.
In recent decades, we have seen two kinds of politicians in the country — those who have sought to get this massive indolent country to transform by pursuing policies of change, and those who want to maintain the inertia because they are comfortable with the failed verities of the past. Inevitably — since this comes with the territory — the former are routinely pilloried by the latter as sell-outs and traitors. Jaswant Singh belongs firmly to the category of ‘changers’, and despite his ponderous demeanour, a person ready to embrace the new, sometimes with an ardour that can be disconcerting.

Yet there is an element of courage in Jaswant Singh penning this memoir. It is, of course, among other things, somewhat self-serving. But that goes with the genre. Why courage? Because Jaswant is still an active politician, one who potentially could still come to occupy the highest office in the land. Putting it out there, howsoever self-servingly, in cold print for critics to take potshots, does require some courage. Not many active politicians offer themselves as such mid-course bait. But there is a certain calculation in Singh confronting his recent, somewhat hectic, political career, without quite airbrushing the warts. It is to assist a closure of sorts for controversial issues that could cause needless embarrassment later when, presumably, the big call to honour comes.

Let us look at some of the warts. You can take issue with Jaswant Singh on this or that aspect of Kandahar. But the fact is that the game was already lost well before he got onto the same aircraft carrying the terrorists who were being released. With hindsight, we can question the belief in South Block that we could deal with the Taliban as interlocutors. Singh’s own account brings out the complicity of the Taliban authorities in the whole sordid affair. The intelligence services must have been aware that Masood Azhar and Mullah Omar shared the same pir — the late Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori masjid, Karachi, but they do not appear to have factored it into their advice.

The immediate game was lost when the aircraft was allowed to leave Amritsar, and the longer-term one year earlier, when a panicky government headed by V.P. Singh overrode Farooq Abdullah’s advice and compelled him to release three JKLF militants in exchange for the daughter of the then Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. This has subsequently been brought up again and again whenever the need of taking a tough stand in a hostage negotiation is raised. The aircraft was allowed to leave Amritsar because the country has always had an ambivalent posture towards terrorism, some would call it soft — witness the agonising, even today, over the idea of an anti-terrorist legislation. The person on the spot simply did not find himself empowered to order the tyres of the aircraft to be shot out.

The country’s approach towards terrorist incidents has, and remains, somewhat hesitant and unsure. In 1993, when serial bombs killed nearly 300 people in Mumbai, India did little, despite a mountain of evidence of direct Pakistani complicity in the event. In 2001, after Parliament was attacked the NDA government mobilised the army, but that’s about all. Singh’s laboured defence of that response does not quite tell the whole sorry story.

Let us take the second major wart — negotiations with the US. Developing close ties with one of the major world powers is not something that the NDA government discovered. Go back to Rajiv Gandhi’s 1986 and 1987 visits to Washington and his comments on the importance of these relations to see that improving relations with the US had been a central pillar of Indian government policy since Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980. This was despite what the US was doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Certainly Singh and his colleagues in the NDA were guilty of a somewhat excessive enthusiasm in the way they looked at their relations with the US, brought on in part by ideological proclivity, in part by inexperience, and in some measure, by personal inclination. But theirs was also a monumental undertaking — they self-consciously blew up the old edifice of the relationship by the nuclear tests in Pokhran, and then systematically sought out ways of rebuilding it. Singh’s accomplishment was indeed in ‘harmonising’ Indo-US ties to the point when, in quick time, the two countries were able to arrive at the Indo-US nuclear agreement of July 18, 2005. But this, to be fair, was as much a product of the Bush administration’s perception of American interests, as of Jaswant Singh’s 2001 diplomatic achievement.

There were other aspects of Jaswant Singh and the NDA’s irrational exuberance, such as the welcoming of George Bush’s advocacy of the missile defence, the post-9/11 offer of military facilities to the US and that of troops for Iraq which were born out of somewhat naïve and exaggerated expectations of the US. The government believed that the terrorist attack on America would lead to a paradigm shift in the triangular India-Pakistan-US relationship. That did not happen because big powers are far more focused on national self-interest; that is why they are big powers in the first place. Of course, all our analysis and that of Singh’s critics comes with hindsight, which is 20/20. Figuring out the course to take in the hurly-burly of real-time events is quite another thing.

History, even contemporary, can never determine policy. Because then, France and Germany can never be friends and China and Japan must forever be condemned to adversary relations. But history can certainly inform policy. Read minus the digressions and embellishments, Jaswant Singh’s book is a useful account of our recent past and provides some light to guide the path to our future foreign and security policies.

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Postby ShauryaT » 18 Oct 2006 06:02

I read Jaswant's book. It is an OK read. I was expecting more on the Talbott-Singh round of talks, Shakti II, Kargil, Kandahar, Parakram et al but I guess for a BRFite one did have to go quite far to please the appetite. :)

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Postby svinayak » 18 Oct 2006 07:50

America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (Hardcover)
by Mark Steyn


In this, his first major book, Mark Steyn--probably the most widely read, and wittiest, columnist in the English-speaking world--takes on the great poison of the twenty-first century: the anti-Americanism that fuels both Old Europe and radical Islam. America, Steyn argues, will have to stand alone. The world will be divided between America and the rest; and for our sake America had better win.

From the Inside Flap
It’s the end of the world as we know it…

Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer from a muezzin. Europeans already are.

And liberals will still tell you that "diversity is our strength"—while Talibanic enforcers cruise Greenwich Village burning books and barber shops, the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn’t violate the "separation of church and state," and the Hollywood Left decides to give up on gay rights in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.

If you think this can’t happen, you haven’t been paying attention, as the hilarious, provocative, and brilliant Mark Steyn—the most popular conservative columnist in the English-speaking world—shows to devastating effect in this, his first and eagerly awaited new book on American and global politics.

The future, as Steyn shows, belongs to the fecund and the confident. And the Islamists are both, while the West—wedded to a multiculturalism that undercuts its own confidence, a welfare state that nudges it toward sloth and self-indulgence, and a childlessness that consigns it to oblivion—is looking ever more like the ruins of a civilization.

Europe, laments Steyn, is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America alone—with maybe its cousins in brave Australia. But America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world’s last best hope.

Steyn argues that, contra the liberal cultural relativists, America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America’s influence around the world—for our own sake as well as theirs.

Mark Steyn’s America Alone is laugh-out-loud funny—but it will also change the way you look at the world. It is sure to be the most talked-about book of the year.

Thank you Mr. Steyn for sounding the alarm! There are a number of other books like this as well that free-thinking people should read. The main question, ultimately, is this:
Why? Why is Western culture commiting suicide? The very concept that we, as people, as individuals, are FREE...is unique to WESTERN CULTURE! The belief that all human beings have inate and inalienable rights...comes almost exclusively from the WEST! Do we really want all the achievements of centuries worth of struggle, invention, and innovation to be eclipsed by a false Asian "reliion", a religion that does not believe in freedom?
Of course, the leftists among us will typically shriek accusations of "racism" and "bigotry" at any assertion of pride in WESTERN culture or European heritage. These are largely people of WESTERN origin, of European ancestry, inside and outside of Europe, who WANT THE WEST TO DIE! So...are they then not racist or bigoted against themselves? These leftist sheep have been thoroughly indoctrinated by their commisars and apparatchiks to respond this way. Sadly, much of this mentality has taken hold of Europe, a region of the world that America fought hard to liberate in World War II!
I am PROUD of my WESTERN HERITAGE and EUROPEAN ANCESTRY! I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN! But that does not make me a "racist". I do not believe that people of other cultures should be "eliminated" or "enslaved", and I definitely do not believe that should happen to the WESTERN people! Leftists will scream that we "deserve this" because of imperial conquests or economic exploitation that occured centuries ago. THAT IS ANCIENT HISTORY! WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THAT! If my great-grandfather was a criminal, and got away with his crimes...does that mean I have to pay for his transgressions, no matter how honestly I've lived?

The fact remains, people of European origin are ACTUALLY A MINORITY in the WORLD POPULATION! WE CAN NOT FEED AND HOUSE THE ENTIRE WORLD FOR FREE! Its good to be generous, its good to try to improve the lives of people in other nations so they can enjoy the same quality of life, but there has to be initiative in their own homelands! Mr. Steyn's book illustrates how thoroughly this "feed the world" mentality has set the stage for Europe's rapid demise, its already underway in America. The underlying reason for all of this: our WESTERN society has been brainwashed to "hate itself", to lose its resolve. Why?



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Postby Supratik » 21 Oct 2006 09:30

This is an old book. Don't know if it has been ever posted here.

http://bengalvoice.com/

My People Uprooted

A Saga of the Hindus of Eastern Bengal

By Tathagata Roy

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Postby svinayak » 24 Oct 2006 07:28

Asia's Giants: Comparing China and India (Hardcover)
by Edward Friedman (Editor), Bruce Gilley (Editor)



This edited volume reconsiders the conventional wisdom that argues that the comparative performance of China has been superior to that of India, bringing together new paradigms for evaluating two countries in terms of economics, social policy, politics, and diplomacy. Essays show that if not outright wrong, conventional wisdom has proven to be overly simplified. The book brings out the complexity and richness of the India-China comparison.

About the Author
Edward Friedman is Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Bruce Gilley is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at Princeton University.

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Postby svinayak » 24 Oct 2006 07:34

The India-China Relationship: What the United States Needs to Know (Paperback)
by Francine R. Frankel (Editor), Harry Harding (Editor) "Security partnerships in Asia are entering an era of realignment amid considerable uncertainty about how new configurations will affect the national interests of the United States


"The publication takes a multidisciplinary approach and has inputs from political science, history, economics, international relations and security studies.... The book also focuses on the broader international contexts for the bilateral relations between China and India." -- Indus Business Journal

"This excellent collection...fills a gap in the literature on Asia's international relations...Highly recommended." -- Choice


Book Description

As we move further into a new century, the two most populous nations on earth, China and India, continue a long and tangled relationship. Given their contested border, their nuclear rivalry, their competition for influence in Asia, their growing economic relations, and their internal problems, interaction between these two powers will deeply affect not only stability and prosperity in the region, but also vital U.S. interests. Yet the dynamics of the Chinese-Indian relationship are little known to Americans.

This volume brings together scholars from political science, history, economics, international relations, and security studies to add depth to our understanding of China-India relations. Throughout, the contributors address three common questions: what are the similarities and differences between the two countries' strategic cultures, domestic circumstances, and international environments? What are the broader international contexts for their bilateral relations? And what parallels and tensions exist between their national interests? U.S. policymakers, the academic community, and the informed public require fresh thinking and greater attention to India-China relations, as both countries promise to be of strategic importance to the United States in the decades ahead.'

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Postby Paul » 25 Oct 2006 01:15

Aspects of India's economy


Excerpts of this book available online

II. The Class Logic of the Indian Rulers' Drive for 'Great-Power' Status

Indeed, India's own minister for science and technology, Kapil Sibal, remarked candidly at a recent conference: "If the US faces a challenge in the 21st century, it will not be from India; [but] somebody from its neighbourhood. US is cosying up with India because of the Chinese challenge". He hastened to add that he was not speaking in an official capacity.28

Seeking official international confirmation of its claimed new status, the Indian government (under both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh) has single-mindedly pursued permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). (As is well known, the UN's General Assembly is merely decorative, and only the permanent, unelected members of the UNSC – the US, France, Britain, China and Russia – have any powers.) In this pursuit, India joined a club of which the other members are Germany, Japan, and Brazil, collectively the Group of Four. However, the G-4 proposal requires the support of two-thirds of the General Assembly; it has failed so far to obtain the support of more than a handful of countries. The US dismissed the G-4's proposal, saying it only supported a permanent seat for Japan and perhaps one other country (without specifying which other country).




IV. Why the US Promotes India's Great-Power Ambitions

First, the US is not worried by India's ambitions: it knows that India is unable to project power across Asia independently. For example, India's plans for a rapid-reaction force which could be deployed immediately in countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean cannot be pursued without fast long-range aircraft with aerial refueling capabilities, Airborne Early Warning and Command aircraft, attack helicopters, and a carrier in addition to the INS Virat. A significant share of this would have to be imported from the US.45 Any drawn-out intervention abroad would require even greater infrastructure, which India lacks. (In fact, even the European Union countries are not equipped with the infrastructure for sustained projection of military force independent of the US. This was demonstrated during the Balkans crisis, when they were forced at last to turn to the US to intervene.)

Moreover, given the balance of military strength, India's attempts to project power cannot be sustained in the face of US opposition. Indeed, Vajpayee reportedly confessed that strategic partnership with the US was essential to his 20-year programme to attain great-power status; "otherwise India's ability to project power and influence abroad anywhere would be greatly compromised."46

The second reason for the US to promote Indian ambitions is that it suits US interests to do so. This is spelled out with brutal candour in at least three important US sources.



Like I said in the Afghanistan thread, Indian troops are required with utmost urgency to take on bullets, IEDs and stingers meant for NATO forces

Indian armed forces to do the "low-end" tasks
The US needs not only Indian facilities, but the services of the Indian armed forces themselves. According to Ashley Tellis, their role would be lowly, but useful to the US:
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MacDonald suggests Indians could be assigned "low-end operations":

[The] US military seeks a competent military partner that can take on more responsibility for low-end operations in Asia, such as peace-keeping operations, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and high-value cargo escort, which will allow the US military to concentrate its resource on high-end fighting missions.




India as 'Global Power'
V. In Conclusion

The prospects for a US-India alliance seem attractive to the Indian rulers. First, because the US evidently enjoys military superiority without precedent in world history, and therefore seems in a good position to guarantee India a new global status. Secondly, perhaps more than ever before, the Indian upper classes, and even considerable sections of the urban middle class, by now identify with the US's world hegemony: Many have relatives in the US; growing numbers of them work for US firms or firms serving the US (eg, in the IT sector); and the explosion of foreign and domestic media during the last 15 years has heightened this sense of identification. Official US backing to India's 'great power' project will no doubt further consolidate support among these sections for a US-India strategic alliance. Though a small minority, these sections play an important role in shaping 'public opinion', that is, in influencing broader sections.

However, there are several reasons why all will not go smoothly for the US-India alliance now unfolding.

(i) First, US military superiority is over-rated. It is by no means unchallenged. Even now it has been unable to suppress the resistance forces of just one country, Iraq. And it is overstretched globally and showing signs of strain. More significantly, the economic base of US hegemony worldwide is fragile. Given this, its guarantees of "making India a global power" are even more fragile.77

(ii) Secondly, the internal political difficulties of the Indian ruling classes are unlikely to be solved by India being deemed a 'global power'. This is for the simple reason that while the upper sections have prospered from the changes that have taken place in the last two decades, the large majority have seen their conditions worsen. It is the latter sections, at the bottom of the pile, that are behind the turbulence in the domestic political scene. These sections live in such grinding misery that they are by and large not susceptible to propaganda about India's 'global status'.



Appendix III
Manufacturing Justifications for an Aggressive Alliance

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Why, in particular, should the Indian people support the vast investments and risks involved in such a programme? While US officers bluntly told the author of a Pentagon study that "We want a friend in 2020 that will be capable of assisting the US military to deal with a Chinese threat", they also admitted that the US and India "do not discuss this [the 'Chinese threat'] publicly"; for "Such a rationale for the relationship will make the task of selling the Indo-US relationship to the Indian public exceedingly difficult."6
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And so a variety of other justifications for the alliance are paraded through the media.

-- The first, and least convincing, is that the US and India are both democracies, united against anti-democratic countries in the region (read: China). Says the War College study: "an Indo-American partnership will be strengthened by its being 'an axis of democracy', not a purely military alliance whose purpose is containment of China."

The US began singing this theme under Clinton. His deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, declared in January 1999 that .....
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A second platform for the US-India alliance is the 'fight against terrorism'. Manmohan Singh told the US Congress that ......
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However, it is important to understand that the analysis put forward by Uday Bhaskar and others is self-fulfilling: by involving itself in the US 'war on terror', the Indian government in effect invites the forces fighting the US to target India as well. When they do target India, that will be taken as further justification for joining the US military adventure.




[

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Postby Paul » 02 Nov 2006 15:03

Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science

Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science
By Stefan Arvidsson
Translated by Sonia Wichmann
The University of Chicago Press

Judged on merit, various Aryan theories rank among the weakest examples of scholarship, riddled with scientific contradictions and weighed down by political and racial prejudices. But in influence and longevity, especially in politics, they compare with the theories of Einstein and Darwin. The 'Aryan nation' became the mantra of German unification, while in colonial India, Aryans became the common ancestors of the Indians and the British. Neither Relativity nor the Theory of Evolution can match this.
While the scientific, racial and political aspects of the Aryan theories have been debated threadbare, a basic question remains: what drove the Europeans, Germans in particular, to a land and a people so far removed from them in space and time to define themselves? This question is effectively answered by Swedish scholar Stefan Arvidsson in his new book Aryan Idols. In the process, he has also shed light on European cultural currents leading to the persistence of these theories in western academia and their proneness to ideological abuse.
A useful point that Arvidsson makes is that the goal of this discipline, now called Indo-European studies, was not so much to understand Indian origins as to "show that there existed a rich 'German' mythology that could successfully compete with classical Judeo-Christian traditions". It is hardly surprising that anti-Semitism was tied up with it.
A little known aspect of Aryan theories, at least in India, is the major contribution of German folklore. Wilhem and Jacob Grimm, who compiled German folk tales, were also philologists. "For over two hundred years, a series of historians, linguists, folklorists, and archaeologists have tried to recreate a lost culture. Using ancient texts, medieval records, philological observations, and archaeological remains they have described a world, a religion, and a people older than the Sumerians, with whom all history is said to have begun."
There are, of course, no Indo-European texts. "No objects can definitely be tied to them, nor do we know any 'Indo-European' by name. In spite of that, scholars have stubbornly tried to reach back to the ancient 'Indo-Europeans', with the help of bold historical, linguistic, and archaeological reconstructions, in the hope of finding the foundation of their own culture and religion there."
This helps answer the question why some western academics react viscerally whenever their theories are thrown in doubt by new findings in archaeology, natural history or genetics. As Arvidsson notes: "There is something in the nature of research about Indo-Europeans that makes it especially prone to ideological abuse, perhaps something related to the fact that for the past two centuries, the majority of scholars who have done research on the Indo-Europeans have considered themselves descendants of this mythical race." This 'ideological abuse' reached its culmination in the Nazi regime. More recently, it raised its head when California education authorities tried to change the syllabus in elementary schools, replacing theories like the Aryan invasion with more recent findings.
Speaking of Indology, the book observes: "The theory about India as the original home of the Indo-Europeans, and the Indians as a kind of model Aryans, lost supporters during the nineteenth century, and other homelands and other model Aryans took their place instead." The Aryans (or Indo-Europeans) and their homeland were gradually moved westward until they were made to settle in Eurasia and even Germany. In the hands of German scholars, Aryans became "Indo-Germanische".

In summary, "the main reason why scholarship about the Indo-Europeans has tended to produce myths is that so many who have written [and read] about it have interpreted it as concerning THEIR OWN ORIGIN". While this accounts for the European attachment to the Aryan myth, it fails to explain why many Indian scholars continue to cling to it. The answer will have to come from an Indian scholar.


The AIT Theory is losing steam for sure. It will be be thoroughly discredited in the not too distant future.

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Postby ramana » 03 Nov 2006 19:58

From Pioneer, 3 Nov., 2006 Book review section

Problem with Islam today

Selboume's book, yet another effort since 9/11 at commenting on the bogey of Islam, reiterates what the British pioneers in India researched on the religion, write Prafull Goradia and KR Phanda

The Losing Battle With Islam, David Selboume; Prometheus Books, $30

Ever since the birth of Islam in seventh century, it has been the subject of an intense debate in Christian Europe. Here is a religion that expanded enormously with the Quran in one hand and sword in the other. From the time the Moors landed on the Iberian peninsula in 711 AD to the second siege of Vienna in 1682, Christian Europe, according to Prof Bernard Lewis, faced double threat. There was the threat of conversion to Islam and secondly that of annexation. The 200 years of crusades from 1090 to 1295 AD were essentially attempts made by mainland Europe for the recovery of the holyland and for ensuring the safe passage of pilgrims to these sacred places.

England, though a part of Europe, was not subjected to Islamic invasions. It, however, had the opportunity to interact with Islam when it came to India. British civil servants and missionaries did extensive research and wrote at length on different facets of Islam. It needs to be pointed out that twice Muslims had declared jihad against the British in India. Among those who made outstanding contributions to the understanding of Islam included Sir Thomas Patrick Hughes, Sir William Muir and Sir Thomas Arnold. Muir first published The Life of Mahomet in four volumes in 1861, based on original Arabic sources. Later, in the biography of Prophet Mohammed, he made the following observation: "The sword of Mohammed, and the Quran, are the most stubborn enemies of civilisation, liberty, and truth which the world has yet known." The Losing Battle with Islam is a confirmation of what Muir wrote some 150 years ago.

The book under review is based on two propositions. One, it is the Islamic faith that has moved the momins in the past; it is what is contained in the Quran and the Hadith that are the guiding stars for the Islamists of today. The second proposition made in the book is that the West has wrongly termed the fight of Islam against Christianity as war against terrorism. These propositions are dealt with in detail in the chapters on "The Force of Faith" and "The Misnaming". They are the fulcrum around which the book moves.

Muslims claim that their's is a religion of peace. "If Islam were truly a religion of compassion, mercy, patience, balance and peace, many of the (terrorist) acts would not have taken place. Moreover, if Islam was the embodiment of the above mentioned virtues, no writer or scholar, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would have felt inhibited in commenting on its history, its protagonists, its texts or its ethics, as can be done in respect of other faiths. Yet, no such restraint has been observable in the judgements passed by Islam on faiths of others," says the author. For example, Abu Bakr Bashir, an Indonesian cleric, observed: "Human beings without Islam are like cattle in the eyes of Allah." Christians and Jews waging war in West Asia were "atheist dogs", says Syrian cleric Sheikh Mahmoud al-Ghassi. A lesson for six-year-olds in Saudi schools reads, "All religions other than Islam are false."

Selboume writes: "Indeed, Islam arrogates to itself licence not merely to criticise the faiths of others, but also to condemn their infidel adherents to theological perdition as a matter of divinity ordained duly." Surah 9 of the Quran ordains: "Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day... until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low." In Surah 4, God is described as having cursed the Jews for their unbelief. In Surah 5, Muslims are enjoined not to take Jews and Christians as friends; and, in Surah 2 is found the imprecation that curse of Allah be upon the infidels (pages 388-389 of the book).

The greatest scorn is reserved for polytheists. Surah 9 commands the faithfuls: When the sacred months are past to kill those who join other gods with God, wherever you find them, seize them, besiege them and lie in wait for them with every stratagem but, if they convert, let them go their way" (p-392). Humanity stands graded in a hierarchical fashion in Islam. On top are Muslims. Jews and Christians are second class, whereas Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, animists and others are of the third class and beyond the moral pale.

Given this background of Islam, the Western powers have committed an error of judgement by treating the age-old animosity of Islam against Christianity as an aberration. What is happening is the revival of this ancient conflict. In January 1991, Saddam Hussein, while addressing the Islamic Conference in Baghdad, said: "The coming battle would be a struggle not for the aggrandising Iraqi conquests of Kuwait and hopefully of Saudi Arabia but between believers and infidels" (p-12).

There are few areas in the world from Caucasus to Kashmir, from the Moluccas to Manhattan and from Tunisia to Tanzania that have not suffered from Islamic convulsions. The fount of Islamic energy, its destructiveness and high aspirations is the same, as it has always been the desire to protect the purity of the Islamic faith and vindicate its claim to be the final revealed religion on earth, says the author.

The European leadership seems to suffer from an illusion that imposition of a Western model of democracy would put an end to tension and terrorism in the West. No Islamic country in the world, with the exception of Turkey, is a democracy. No form of Government that violates the tenets of Islam exists in Islamic countries. It is time Western nations realised that, for a Muslim, religion comes first and everything else later. Identity first and development later is the slogan of Muslims.

Islam is more a religion of war than of peace. In 2004, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abd al-Rahman al-Arifi, imam of a mosque in Saudi Arabia, declared: "We will control the land of the Vatican, we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it."

The author concludes his analysis with a quotation from Samuel Huntington's well-known book, Clash of Civilisations: "The relations between Muslims and people of other civilisations - Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish - have been generally antagonistic. Most of these relations have been violent in the past, may have been violent in the 1990s, wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peacefully with their neighbours... The evidence is overwhelming."

Huntington's thesis was widely rejected as Islamophobic. But the evidence Huntington cited made impossible the opposed simplification, which denoted Islam as a religion of peace.

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Postby shyamd » 08 Nov 2006 18:21

Anyone know any good books on Indian SF, or Intelligence agencies, apart from the $40 Dhar's books (BTW is that book any good?)?

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Postby shyamd » 09 Nov 2006 01:31

Beyond the Bayonet : Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century by Deepak Sinha. Anyone read this? Is it good? It was released this year.

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Postby Manu » 10 Nov 2006 15:38

This book has been written by Mark Steyn, a Canadian of of mixed Jewish and Catholic descent. Would appreciate it if any Guru who has read it can share thoughts.

Image

Review from National Review:
Link
[quote]Steyn at the Bridge

By Mona Charen

I’ve never read such an amusing book about such a grim subject. Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It is in deadly earnest — our civilization (this does not include India, BTW) is facing a crisis of confidence and demographic vigor just at the moment when a jihadi world movement stands poised to upend us. And yet Steyn’s inimitable wit enlivens every page. As NR readers already know, he is the Errol Flynn of commentators, finishing off opponents with a single flick of his rapier. Whether that rapier will finally be silenced by a scimitar is the story of this book.

Steyn is not the first to tackle the theme of Western pusillanimity in the face of Islamic barbarism — While Europe Slept, Londonistan, Eurabia, and others have plumbed similar themes — but he is undoubtedly the most stylish. Here is his rejoinder to an Episcopal priest who told his congregation after the London bombings “There are no Muslim terrorists. There are terrorists.â€

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Postby svinayak » 15 Nov 2006 06:51

[quote]New Delhi, 8 November 2006

Forgotten patriots

SIKHS, SWAMIS, STUDENTS AND SPIES

THE INDIAN LOBBY IN THE UNITED STATES 1900-1946


Harold Gould

Sage

Price: Rs 750; Pages: 460

Tca Srinivasa-Raghavan

New Delhi, 7 November


As soon as you start reading this book, the question comes to mind: why didn’t some Indian historian write it? And the answer, of course, is that they are all still obsessed with colonial history. Hopefully, this book will lead to a gradual change in focus, and our prolific historians will start looking at the Indian encounter with America as well.


What makes this book doubly valuable is that compared to India’s experience with Europe, there really isn’t much to go on by way of source material. Yet Gould shows that you can make even that little go a long way. The end notes after each chapter are eloquent testimony.


When you are done reading this book, you are left with yet another question: if so few Indians in the 1930s and the 1940s, with such meagre resources, could be such effective lobbyists with the US Congress, why are we so bad at it now when there are so many more Indians there and far richer to boot?


The key difference, Gould suggests, is nationalism. Indians—mostly Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs—were driven by a fierce sense of nationalism and they took it upon themselves to further the cause of Indian independence. There was also racism, of course, that made them lobby so hard. They won the latter battle eventually in 1946, when their citizenship rights were restored and immigration was allowed under a quota.


Some of the things Gould reveals—or more accurately, reminds us of—will not be palatable. [b]For example, he says there was a group of Indians who actively assisted the British in their propaganda in the US against Gandhiji and the Congress. He names them as Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai; Sir Firoze Khan Noon and Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, both members of the Viceroy’s Council; Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan; and Sir Samuel Ebenezer Raghunandan. Here Gould adds “note that all had been knighted and that many were Muslimsâ€

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Postby Sadler » 21 Nov 2006 06:18

What was the general opinion here at BRF about Talbott's book: Engaging India??

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Postby Sadler » 21 Nov 2006 06:29

Also thinking about buying the following book:

India-Pakistan in War and Peace (Hardcover)
by J. N. Dixit

A bit pricey at $45. Any feedback on how it was received here??

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Postby G Subramaniam » 21 Nov 2006 06:50

Sadler wrote:Also thinking about buying the following book:

India-Pakistan in War and Peace (Hardcover)
by J. N. Dixit

A bit pricey at $45. Any feedback on how it was received here??


The late JN.Dixit is well respected in this forum

Also try Arun Shourie and Maloy Krishna Dhar

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Postby G Subramaniam » 21 Nov 2006 06:50

Sadler wrote:What was the general opinion here at BRF about Talbott's book: Engaging India??


Talbott is not popular on this forum

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Postby JE Menon » 21 Nov 2006 12:17

Sadler, my opinion: get both books but read Dixit first before you read Talbott.

Subramanian is right about Talbott, i.e. that he is not very popular here... However, his writing is an honest American point of view and not to be dismissed off-hand. Very important for us in understanding what data they are processing and how.

If you are on a book-buying spree... I would also recommend Steve Coll's Ghost Wars - which is detailed and of biblical value.

If you want a comprehensive (i.e. historical) American take on relationships between the US and each of India and Pakistan, read:

1. Disenchanted Allies (on US-Pak ties)
2. Estranged Democracies (on US-India ties)

Both by Dennis Kux.

That should put you nicely in the picture - and keep you busy for a couple of months. Order of reading:

1. Dixit
2. Coll
3. Kux (DA)
4. Kux (ED)
5. Talbott

Ideally, parallel process 3&4, but if not feasible in the order above... The books are expensive, should easily put you back by a couple of hundred (unless paperbacks are available now). So try and get them from a good library near you...

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Postby ramana » 21 Nov 2006 20:11

The book on India by Dennis Kux is available online at 2020ok.com

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Postby svinayak » 29 Nov 2006 00:58

Hunger strike

Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World

Sukhdev Sandhu on Late Victorian Holocausts - the famines that fed the empire - by Mike Davis

Saturday January 20, 2001
The Guardian

Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World

Mike Davis
464pp, Verso, £20
Buy it at a discount at BOL

Recording the past can be a tricky business for historians. Prophesying the future is even more hazardous. In 1901, shortly before the death of Queen Victoria, the radical writer William Digby looked back to the 1876 Madras famine and confidently asserted: "When the part played by the British Empire in the 19th century is regarded by the historian 50 years hence, the unnecessary deaths of millions of Indians would be its principal and most notorious monument." Who now remembers the Madrasis?

Article continues
In Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis charts the unprecedented human suffering caused by a series of extreme climactic conditions in the final quarter of the 19th century. Drought and monsoons afflicted much of China, southern Africa, Brazil, Egypt and India. The death tolls were staggering: around 12m Chinese and over 6m Indians in 1876-1878 alone. The chief culprit, according to Davis, was not the weather, but European empires, with Japan and the US. Their imposition of free-market economics on the colonial world was tantamount to a "cultural genocide".

These are strong words. Yet it's hard to disagree with them after reading Davis's harrowing book. Development economists have long argued that drought need not lead to famine; well-stocked inventories and effective distribution can limit the damage. In the 19th century, however, drought was treated, particularly by the English in India, as an opportunity for reasserting sovereignty.

A particular villain was Lord Lytton, son of the Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton ("It was a dark and stormy night...") after whom, today, a well-known bad writing prize is named. During 1876 Lytton, widely suspected to be insane, ignored all efforts to alleviate the suffering of millions of peasants in the Madras region and concentrated on preparing for Queen Victoria's investiture as Empress of India. The highlight of the celebrations was a week-long feast of lucullan excess at which 68,000 dignitaries heard her promise the nation "happiness, prosperity and welfare".

Lytton believed in free trade. He did nothing to check the huge hikes in grain prices, Economic "modernization" led household and village reserves to be transferred to central depots using recently built railroads. Much was exported to England, where there had been poor harvests. Telegraph technology allowed prices to be centrally co-ordinated and, inevitably, raised in thousands of small towns. Relief funds were scanty because Lytton was eager to finance military campaigns in Afghanistan. Conditions in emergency camps were so terrible that some peasants preferred to go to jail. A few, starved and senseless, resorted to cannibalism. This was all of little consequence to many English administrators who, as believers in Malthusianism, thought that famine was nature's response to Indian over-breeding.

It used to be that the late 19th century was celebrated in every school as the golden period of imperialism. While few of us today would defend empire in moral terms, we've long been encouraged to acknowledge its economic benefits. Yet, as Davis points out, "there was no increase in India's per capita income from 1757 to 1947". In Egypt, too, the financial difficulties caused to peasants by famine encouraged European creditors to override the millennia-old tradition that tenancy was guaranteed for life. What little relief aid reached Brazil, meanwhile, ended up profiting British merchant houses and the reactionary sugar-planter classes.

The European "locusts" did not go unchallenged. Rioting became common. Banditry increased. In China, drought-famine helped to spark the Boxer uprising. In Europe, the fin de siècle was largely an opportunity for pale-faced men to wear purple cummerbunds and spout rotten symbolist poetry; for colonized peoples it genuinely seemed to presage mass extinction. It was, says Davis, "a new dark age of colonial war, indentured labour, concentration camps, genocide, forced migration, famine and disease."

Davis's attention to the importance of environment may recall the work of the Annales school of historians, but he is far more radical than any of them. His writing, both here and in such classic books as City of Quartz and Ecology of Fear, is closer to that of Latin American intellectuals such as Ariel Dorfman and the Urguayan, Eduardo Galaeno, who for decades have spotlighted capitalism's casual abuse of the third world and who have sought to champion the poor and dispossessed. Such commitment, forcefully and lucidly expressed, is unfashionable these days.

"Class" may be passé in academic circles, yet the catalogue of cruelty Davis has unearthed is jaw-dropping. A friend to whom I lent the book was reduced to tears by it. Late Victorian Holocausts is as ugly as it is compelling. But, as Conrad's Marlow said in Heart of Darkness : "The conquest of the earth, which means the taking away from those who have a different complexion and slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much."

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Postby svinayak » 01 Dec 2006 06:42

The intimate orient: British cross-cultural encounters, 1850--1950 (India, Japan) (Paperback)
by Stephen R. Jankiewicz


[quote]
This dissertation explores the ways in which British writers and travelers encountered “the Orient.â€

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Postby ramana » 04 Dec 2006 21:24

Pioneer Book Review, 3 Dec 2006
Vicious army of believers

The book proves beyond doubt that Wahabi extremism is the ground on which Al Qaeda and its fraternal outfits are thriving, writes Utpal Kumar

God's Terrorists, Charles Allen; Little Brown, £8.99

The ideology of Al Qaeda and its fraternal outfits is essentially Wahabism, and most, if not all, members of Al Qaeda are Wahabist. When 9/11 happened, the Saudi royalty condemned Osama bin Laden. However, there should be no doubt that bin Laden, the terrorist, is just a product of the jihadi factory established by the House of ibn-Saud. Whatever the Al Qaeda leader is doing today is merely the extension of what he had learned in his formative years in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Islamist show will go on even after his death, if this jihadi infrastructure endures. Then, one will only witness more bin Ladens in future.

A lot has been written since 9/11 on Islamist terrorism, with focus on "modern events and on how and why rather than whence". So much so that an impression has been made that jihad is a thing of the present and the vicious by-product of globalisation and American hegemony. Thankfully, unlike most academic works on the subject, Charles Allen's God's Terrorists is not just about the violent streaks of Islamist terrorism of the day; it is more about a history of ideology underpinning modern jihad, often derisively called Wahabism, after its founder Al-Wahab, which emerged in the late 18th century Arabia as an intolerant re-interpretation of Islam.

As Wahabism spread in the 19th century - first, to the Arabian peninsula, and then to the region around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border - their followers brought with them a vicious political ideology and militant conflict. Wahabism was then exported to India, where it metamorphosed into a secretive cult dedicated to the imposition of a puritanical version of Islam across the world through jihad.

Wahabism was on the verge of extinction several times over, only to regroup and revive later. At least, four phases of its revival can be traced. To the British authorities in India in the 19th century, Wahabis were known as 'Hindustani Fanatics'. A generation later, it reappeared in Arabia as Al-Ikhwan - the Brotherhood. Meanwhile, on the Indian subcontinent, Wahabism had "mutated" into a more stable form, called 'Salafi' (following the forefathers). Then in our own times, this ideology got re-energised by new political ideologies "associated with nationalism, separatism and pan-Islamism, converged and cross-infected the Afghanistan-Pakistan faultline", which led to the emergence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda (p-20).

The Wahabi ideology has deeply influenced the rulers of modern Saudi Arabia. It was Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, an energetic and dynamic Bedouin chieftain, who harnessed the religious zeal and never-say-die spirit of the desert tribes to carve out the Wahabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He institutionalised Wahabism throughout the state and did not even hesitate in calling it an instrument for the establishment of "true democracy" in the region. Ibn-Saud further defended this ideology when he observed: "The enlightened class in every Muslim land is Wahabi in practice, though not in name and origin, because it is this class, as is duly recognised in all the Muslim world, that preaches the gospel of self-reliance." (p-254).

Reza F Safa, the author of Inside Islam, estimates that since 1973, the Saudi Government has spent $87 billion to promote Wahabism in the United States, Africa, south-east Asia and Europe. According to official Saudi information, the Saudi funds have been used to build and maintain over 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges, 210 Islamic centres wholly or partly financed by Arabia, and almost 2,000 schools for educating Muslim children in non-Islamic countries in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia. And the sole objective of this supposed philanthropy is promotion of a religious philosophy that is antithetical to democracy and the democratic ideals of freedom, tolerance and religious pluralism.


In some ways, such largesse is to be expected from the house of ibn-Saud, which owes its very existence to Wahabism. The Saudi regime first came to power after an alliance between ibn Saud and ibn al Wahab in the 18th century. Together, they pledged to form a nation based on the principles of Islam. In 1932, an al-Saud warlord, Abdul Aziz, fulfilled his ancestors' dream; he declared himself sovereign of his own newly conquered territories, which he named the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abdul Aziz adopted the Quran as the Constitution.

Things, however, were not as bad as it is today. "The relative poverty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia initially prevented the ulema from promoting Wahabism effectively beyond its borders - until 1973, when the price of crude oil went through the roof following the Arab-Israel war and the formation of the OPEC oil cartel. Saudi Arabia was suddenly awash with petrodollars, and at last the Wahabi authorities were able to commit massive sums to producing Wahabi literature and funding mosques and madarsas wherever there were Sunni communities. The Indian subcontinent became the leading beneficiary of their largesse," writes Allen (p-258-59). The author seems to have hit the nail when he later says, "So long as the world buys oil from the Saudis, Wahabism will prosper in Arabia" (p-295).

Towards the end of the book, Allen blames the 'liberals' like Edward Said for accentuating the grievances - mostly imagined - of Muslims by speaking of the Arab world as being "disfigured by a whole series of outmoded and discredited ideas" from the West. By saying so, the extremists are given an opportunity to turn to the Muslim ummah and say, "We told you so. Only we can help you." And history demonstrates that fundamentalists are listened only when people believe themselves and their religion to be threatened.

God's Terrorists is a lucidly written and well-researched book on the history of Wahabism, the cornerstone of jihadi violence that we are witnessing today. Allen has performed commendably the job of both historian and political commentator, which makes the book a reader's delight.


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Postby svinayak » 12 Dec 2006 23:02

Dangerous Nation (Hardcover)
by Robert Kagan




One of America's great myths, says Kagan, is that the U.S. has always been isolationist, only rarely flexing its muscles beyond its borders. Not so
: in the first half of a two-volume study of American foreign policy, Washington Post columnist and bestselling author Kagan (Of Paradise and Power) argues that even in the colonial era Americans restlessly pushed westward. At every turn, Kagan shows how a policy of aggressive expansion was inextricably linked with liberal democracy. Political leaders of the early republic developed expansionist policies in part because they worried that if they didn't respond to their clamoring constituents—farmers who wanted access to western land, for example—the people might rebel or secede. Also provocative is Kagan's reading of the Civil War as America's "first experiment in ideological conquest" and nation building in conquered territory. He then follows American expansion through the 19th century, as the U.S. increased its dominance in the western hemisphere and sought, in President Garfield's phrase, to become "the arbiter" of the Pacific. Kagan may overstate the extent to which contemporary Americans imagine U.S. history to be thoroughly isolationist; it's a straw man that this powerfully persuasive, sophisticated book hardly needs. 75,000 first printing.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Robert Kagan created an international sensation in 2002 with his essay "Power and Weakness," later expanded into a bestselling book entitled Of Paradise and Power. His essay announced that "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus." A self-satisfied Europe, he said, had lost both the will and the means to exercise power -- especially military power -- in the international arena. Meanwhile, the United States had developed unrivaled military might and was prepared to wield it globally and with gusto. Europeans bristled at Kagan's devaluation of their half-century-old project of union and peace, while American neoconservatives applauded his contempt for Old World wimpiness and relish for American muscularity.

"The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure," Kagan then wrote. His new book may be read as an effort to make a systematic historical case for just how deeply rooted and stubbornly durable America's international assertiveness has been, thereby suggesting a legitimating pedigree for America's current foreign policies -- or perhaps creating a critical instrument for radically revising them. Kagan's earlier work was about power. Dangerous Nation deals largely in ideas, especially the distinctive assumptions, beliefs and values that have shaped America's singular role in the world. Yet this, too, is in the end a book about power. And it is aptly titled. Americans, he argues, have long worshipped at the altar of Mars, the god of war.

Dangerous Nation lacks Of Paradise and Power's brio but none of its sass. Its prose is sometimes labored, but its systematic dismantling of accepted dogmas is refreshingly provocative -- though not all readers will buy its central thesis that a kind of high-minded pugnacity is encoded in the national DNA.

Kagan again assumes the stance of enfant terrible, assailing the keepers of the conventional wisdom. The picture he paints is not always edifying. Europeans and others wary of America's motives and influence may find that it confirms their deepest dreads; some neoconservatives may wonder if Kagan has decamped to the Chomskyite, America-bashing left. Dangerous Nation draws from a deep well of historical scholarship about American foreign relations, but it sharply rejects the traditional account of America's rise from its days as a puny and peripheral isolationist state to a belated embrace of "international responsibilities" and great-power -- eventually, "hyperpower" -- status. Instead, Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Washington Post columnist, mounts a frontal assault on "the pervasive myth of America as isolationist and passive until provoked . . . . This book is an attempt to tell a different story that is more about expansion and ambition, idealistic as well as materialistic, than about isolationist exemplars and cities upon hills."

The trashing of orthodoxy begins in the book's opening pages. Kagan dismisses the New England Puritans as irrelevant relics of piety and principle. He instead finds the engines of America's national development, including the guiding premises of its foreign policy, in the wolfish restlessness of the 17th-century Chesapeake region, athrob with "aggressive expansionism, acquisitive materialism, and an overarching ideology of civilization that encouraged and justified both."

He goes on to repudiate the customary characterization of the American Revolution as a war against empire, discrediting what he regards as the naive notion that the nation's revolutionary, anti-British origins bequeathed an anti-imperial legacy to future generations. He insists, rather, that the American colonists were themselves grasping imperialists, on fire with aggrandizing ambitions that London refused to support. They chafed especially at the British Proclamation of 1763, which checked trans-Appalachian settlement in a misbegotten attempt to work out an orderly policy toward the Indians of the interior. The American revolutionaries lusted for an empire of their own, writes Kagan, and made war to get it.

Liberated from Britain, Kagan's Americans began to articulate "a recognizable grand strategy" that they pursued ever after. That strategy did not arise from the crafty geopolitical stratagems of statesmen (who often appear in this account as the unwitting instruments of powerful popular yearnings, rather than as purposeful leaders) but from the "ravenous appetites of a generation of Americans whom [Revolutionary leader] Gouverneur Morris recognized as 'the first-born children of the commercial age.' " Kagan says summarily that Adam Smith's 18th-century version of "liberalism" -- by which he means the unfettered "wants and desires of several million free individuals in search of wealth and opportunity, unrestrained by the firm hand of an absolute government, a dominant aristocracy, or even a benevolent constitutional monarch" -- has for 200 years been the mainspring of America's predatory, aggressive foreign policy.

But populist avidity is only half the story. To their dreams of avarice Kagan's questing Americans wedded an ideology that cast their country as the paladin of universal principles of democracy and liberty. Kagan insists that the belief in universal rights was no mere fig leaf to cover baser motives. It became for Americans "the essence of their national identity and therefore had to be a defining characteristic of their participation on the world stage." This potent brew of cupidity unbound and conviction "bordering on hubris," of material greed and moral righteousness, constitutes for Kagan the very soul of America's character and diplomatic tradition alike. Americans pride themselves on the high-mindedness of that tradition. But others may see in it what Edmund Burke saw in the foreign policy of the French Revolutionaries: "an armed doctrine," self-righteous, unappeasable and inherently subversive of the extant international order.

Thus the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 was both a declaration of America's intent to dominate the New World and an audacious "statement of international republican solidarity." For several decades thereafter, America's expansionary machine idled as the slavery controversy generated "two foreign policies" -- Southern expansionism (to annex more slave territory) and Northern containment (to jacket the slave power in a cordon of free states and eventually extinguish it).

But after the Union's victory in the Civil War had purged the contradiction of slavery from the national conscience and fantastically stoked the furnaces of rampant industrialization, the United States pursued its international agenda with what Kagan unapologetically calls "notable belligerence." It built a steel navy in the 1880s, behaved truculently in Venezuela and Samoa, and eagerly sought an imperial war of choice against Spain in 1898. Unlike other historians, Kagan sees the Spanish-American War as neither a transient aberration nor a historic departure but as the culmination "of unfolding historical events and forces reaching back to before the founding of the nation" -- and "the product of deeply ingrained American attitudes toward the nation's place in the world."

Here Kagan's volume ends, with America just stepping onto the world stage as a major power. A second volume, presumably bringing the story up to the present, is forthcoming.

It's sobering to consider where Kagan's narrative line may lead him as he carries his story forward. For despite its emphasis on "liberal" acquisitiveness and ideological righteousness as the molders of American diplomacy, the deeper theme running through this book has to do with the ways that power does not merely permit but actually defines foreign policy objectives. Kagan acknowledges that, as the United States acquired more power, it simultaneously acquired an "expanding sense of both interests and entitlement." What's more, "as perceived interests expanded, so did perceived threats and the perceived need for even more power to address them." As the nation grew more powerful, its dreams became desires; desires became necessities; necessities became imperatives; and imperatives led to empire -- in the fullest sense of the word. Power, in short, constitutes its own self-feeding perpetual-motion machine that relentlessly drives America's -- or any state's -- international behavior. And when a nation arrives at the point in its history when it believes itself to possess unmatchable power and harbors no doubts about the scope of its interests or the rightness of its cause -- when it represents an "armed doctrine," cocksure and implacable -- what dangers does it court for itself, as well as for others?


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