Thursday, July 19, 2018

What's Really Behind American Threats Against India

You know, it is a curious thing. When Pakistan made moves about potentially acquiring Russian-made S-400 anti-missile/anti-air system … there was, largely, silence. Yet when India goes to actualize acquisition of S-400 systems as part of a deal with Russia that was negotiated in 2016 – United States moves to impose sanctions on India.
There are two ways to view this. The first is the straight-forward defence-industry perspective. The S-400 is a pretty good system. Indeed, I would contend that it appears to be a *better* system than the US-made Patriot ABM/SAM system. Not least because I am yet to encounter any reports of an S-400 employment demolishing city-blocks in urban areas it is supposed to be defending – as reportedly happened both during Israel’s usage of same during the first Gulf War against Iraqi SCUDs, and more recently in Saudi Arabia during Houthi missile attacks.

Just as we saw with the alleged pressure put on NATO members to acquire wildly expensive US-made F-35 hangar-queens instead of more sensible or proven aircraft … the American defence industry appears to increasingly survive not on providing ‘cutting edge’ hardware to clients (partially, to be fair, due to software issues…) – but rather, through having the “strong arm” of US geopolitical pressure endeavour to apply some form of ‘cutting edge’ to the jugular veins of (non-military) trade-flows between potential customers and the American market.
However, while it would be tempting to simply consider this another bout of American “please-don’t-buy-their-gunboats” “diplomacy”, to do so would be to decontextualize this instance from its place in the broader (and increasingly troubled) Indian relationship with the United States.

In the last few months, we have seen repeated “warnings” from America to India that the US will not tolerate ongoing Indian strengthening of diplomatic and other ties with Iran.
Indeed, the most recent round of these effectively issued India with a straight-up ultimatum to almost immediately abandon its importation of five hundred thousand barrels per day of Iranian oil (this represents Iran’s largest petroleum export market)
Now, while it is again possible to view the above as yet another manifestation of American domestic-producer protection (i.e. the Trump Administration is fairly keen to continue to support expansions in US oil production – something largely made possible through the effects American efforts against both Iran and Venezuela, as well as Russia, have had on price and supply in the global energy market) , this misses the geopolitical realities at play here – as well as, come to think of it, the historic precedence for same.
By pursuing positive relations with Iran, maintaining its strong relations with Russia, and also continuing to build upon the last decade or so’s perhaps striking relationship-building with America … all at the same time … India is demonstrating a sound application of the principle of “Multipolarity” in practice.
And as it happens, this is not a new ‘stance’ nor situation for India, either – once upon a time, She was the leading state of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Yet however much sense it might make for India (and, indeed, the world at large) to embrace Multipolarity in geopolitical affairs, the Americans have never been particularly keen on the idea. Not since they started to realize they were a true global (super)power, at any rate.

As we will recall from the Cold War – the American position tended to be that you either ‘picked’ them or the Soviets; with endeavours at ‘doing business’ with both ‘sides’ strongly discouraged. A situation which, I would argue, actually *cost* them a considerable number of potential amicable diplomatic relationships for basically no reason other than pride and pedantry.
And while this would be bad and limiting enough for the ‘client states’ in question, what has invariably made it worse is the American insistence upon ‘paternalism’ in these relationships.
That is to say, point-blank refusing to countenance their dealings with other sovereign states in the course of such arrangements as anything like a ‘conversation’ of even notional equals, or actual ‘partners’ who each bring to the table valid points of view.

Instead, as we are seeing with the recent threats against India – a far more ‘unilateral’ approach is taken, perhaps as befits an ‘Imperial Center’ who’ve come to view themselves as some horrendous combination of “Hyperpower” and “Chakravartin”.
A unipolar hegemon who, it would appear, has all but forgotten what it is to have “friends” on the international stage, in avowed preference of viewing its associates as something altogether more akin to “satrapies”.

And to be fair here – both to the US in general, as well as to the Trump Administration in particular – this is not entirely a new phenomenon. If one were to look not at all that far back in the annals of history, something like the unjust demands made of Japan by America at the Plaza Accords in 1985 stands out as an emblematic example. Or, for that matter, the US’s straight-up diktat-orial refusal to compromise with New Zealand over the issue of their nuclear ships in our waters which was occurring roughly contemporaneously.
Going back further, and further-afield, we can find any number of Imperial powers carrying out similar conduct with regard to smaller or otherwise less ‘potent’ polities, and for avowedly similar reason.
Although the funny thing about that is – this kind of arrogant and aggressive conduct not infrequently occurs toward the *end* of a given Power’s tenure as ‘giant in the playground’.
How long, for instance, did it take Athens to go from purporting to uphold (Greek) Freedom against a tyrannous “evil empire” … through to the much-changed rhetoric of the Melian Dialogue (wherein the Athenians abandoned the high-minded pretenses the Delian League was nominally founded under, and proceeded to offer terms to the previously neutral state of Melos which literally amounted to “Join (and pay exorbitant tribute) Or Die” ) … and from thence to escalating rebellion among its previous ‘allies’ in response to increasingly brutal Athenian conduct, followed not long after by Spartan triumph and Athenian geopolitical and political collapse.
With all of that in mind, the Americans would perhaps be advised to ponder whether this ongoing campaign of attempted-intimidation against a rising Great Power in pursuit of very much *temporary* gains against a regional adversary or for their less-competitive domestic industries … is actually likely to be “worth it” in the longer run.
We have all heard the aphorism “Don’t Poke The Bear”, in deference to Russia.
Perhaps, as applies the American interaction with India, the US would be wise to recall another maxim – “Don’t Tread On” the Cobra.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If You're Serious About Southern - This Is The Next Logical Step

A bit of an odd thought I had earlier this morning about this Lauren Southern free-speech-or-na controversy.

Now, the reason people are objecting to various efforts to have the ban lifted on Southern & Molyneux utilizing Auckland Council venues for their tour .. is at least partially because of what these figures have said, or are likely to say. And in the case of Southern, that almost certainly entails a repetitive series of rhetorical attacks on "Islam". [I mean seriously, her last book is entitled "Barbarians: How Baby Boomers, Immigrants, and Islam Screwed My Generation"]

I mention this point in particular, because while s61 of the Human Rights Act makes it unlawful to "excite hostility against or bring into contempt" racial/ethnic groups in a variety of contexts ... I am unaware of any parallel and corresponding prohibition on doing likewise against religious groups or adherents on a similar basis.

Except, of course, for s123 of the Crimes Act - which covers "Blasphemous Libel". Although given the complicated and convoluted elements around *that* particular offence [including the requirement for Attorney-General approval for any potential prosecution, as well as the fact that it's been almost a hundred years since that offence was last prosecuted here, and the additional legal question as to whether it applies to anything other than Anglicanism] ... it may actually be even *less* useful in this regard than the notoriously over-extended Human Rights Commission.

Now, one potential solution here would be to bring in something analogous to s295A of the Indian Penal Code - which effectively acts as a blanket prohibition on attempts to "outrage religious feelings" or "insult" a religion or its followers.

However, I suspect that this would be more than a bridge too far for many of the people presently protesting the protest relating to Southern & Molyneux.

And, indeed, seem to directly recall a not insignificant number or spectrum of those against the block on Southern & Molyneux using a Council venue being at least somewhat in favour of the repeal of the aforementioned s123 of our Crimes Act - often on grounds of freedom of speech.

Now to be clear about this - I am *conspicuously not taking a position in favour of allowing Southern & Molyneux* into said Council-owned venue with this post.

Instead, I am simply putting forward two points: first, that if I take at face value the rhetorical stances of a reasonable number of the people *against* Southern & Molyneux being able to speak at the Bruce Mason Centre ... then the obvious 'next step' becomes something akin to the aforementioned criminal offence under Indian law.

And second, that I rather suspect if push were actually to come to shove, a not-insignificant number of the aforementioned group would quite probably balk at the idea of actually putting up a barrier (particularly one which might actually have some 'legislative teeth') to being able to attack - or, if you prefer, "speak out against" - (a) religion(s).

Perhaps I am wrong about this. Maybe I've propounded a false assumption, and most if not all of the people presently being vocal about how causing offence and inciting disharmony in the community *on a racialine basis* ought not come within the ambit of 'protected' speech ... also share similar concerns when it comes to religion and religious adherents.

Particularly when it's in the direction of those of us who're religious minorities here in this country.

But for a number of reasons, I do not think that I am.

Which, of course, raises an interesting follow-up: as if one is not to be allowed to rhetorically attack other people or ethnic/racial groupings on the basis of their ethnic/racial origins ... but *is* to be allowed to rhetorically attack the culturo-religious elements of their personhood regardless:

We have effectively set up a situation wherein no matter the colour of skin or where you come from, you are free to be a relatively liberal white person on the inside without fear of attack or disparagement.

And little-to-nothing else.

Funny thing, there - I'm pretty sure that's an integral part of Lauren Southern's desired vision for Western society.