Smart analysis from one of Washington’s leading cassandras. Brzezinski opposed the Iraq war, has been warning against any confrontation with Iran, and has denounced the grotesque inequalities that beset the unregulated US economy.
Rakhshanda Jalil writes in The Hindu, 27 February 2011, about “that elusive connect with India when she was least expecting it” on a visit to Karachi, Pakistan. The title of her piece is “A city not unlike home.”
I am always amused when Indians are surprised and taken aback by Pakistanis (whether in Karachi or Lahore or elsewhere) who “speak Urdu and English with almost equal aplomb” or by their “silk sarees and natty blazers” or by their possible cosmopolitanism!!! (Class is class, unfortunately, and the élite exhibit their privileges in similar ways all over the region!) Does it not, if just remotely, smack of the loaded “praise”: “Gee! Obama is so articulate!” — also known as “the racism of lowered expectation”? Why would Indians expect otherwise from their class-affiliates on the other side of the border? Or is it that Bollywood’s Pakistan-bashing fantasies are actually swallowed uncritically — hook, line, and sinker — even (or perhaps especially) by the educated Indians, eliciting “fears about Kalashnikov-toting Taliban and marauding Muhajirs.”
And by the way, Pakistanis are not all “tall, well-built, good-looking people,” especially under the normative definition of “good-looking” in South Asia (fair-skinned or with a “wheatish complexion”) — thank god for the latter! Sadly, the former two ascriptions, of course, too easily go awry given malnutrition due to poverty. Continue reading “An Élite Not Unlike Ours! Who’d Have Guessed?!”
Of all the received ideas that clog America’s foreign-policy discourse, none is more at variance with reality than the threat of isolationism. We have never been more engaged with every corner of the world, yet we have never been lectured more often about the consequences of “retreating within our borders.” The more countries we attack—Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen—the more dire warnings we get about national introversion. The specter of isolationism has never looked healthier.
A case in point was George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, a venue he used to tell a spine-chilling tale. With his foreign policy exploding all around him, Bush warned against an even more disastrous alternative: there were those who would “tie our hands” and have us “retreat within our borders.” From the tenor of his talk, he seemed to think that Americans were about to burn down both the Pentagon and Department of State, beat defense intellectuals into postal workers, and force every house in the land to set up a little steel foundry in the back yard—just like in the Great Leap Forward—while learning to live on grubs and wild mountain honey.
Of course, this is absurd: as many pointed out in response to this scaremongering, there are no isolationists in America—not in either political party, not in the media, and not in the academy. (The i-word is often used as a synonym for unilateralism. Here I am assigning only its most common meaning: a tendency to ignore security threats beyond territorial borders and disengage diplomatically, politically, and economically from the rest of the world.) Nevertheless, the menace of a return to geopolitical autarky is carted out whenever our sclerotically narrow foreign-policy consensus gets an unwelcome jolt. This habit of mind did not end with the exit of George W. Bush.
Editor’s Note: For backround on the Bhopal disaster click here.
Friday marks the 26th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, the Bhopal Gas Disaster, which brought to light in the most horrific of ways the darker side of economic globalisation. The disaster saw the lives of hundreds of thousands of impoverished Indians destroyed as negligence on the part of a US multinational led to the escape of over 40 tons of ultra-hazardous toxic gasses from a poorly built pesticide factory, laying waste on an entire city.
Although estimates vary, the current death toll is thought to be 25,000, and those seriously injured number well over 100,000. These numbers are still rising due to the thousands of tons of abandoned chemicals continuously polluting the Bhopali environment (with increasing concentrations in the soil and drinking water), and gas-affected survivors giving birth to children with serious genetic malformations.
To date, justice has evaded Bhopal victims and their families, who continue to suffer with a vast range of crippling disabilities as well as psychological trauma. The multinational behind all this — Union Carbide Corporation, now owned by the Dow Chemical Company — continues to exploit the inadequate framework of the Indian legal system and has been aided by indifference and at times probable collusion by the central government which dubiously insists it has always acted in the best interest of the victims.
We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue. By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue. ~ Blog Action Day Website
For the past 3 years, every October 15th, Blog Action Day has been marked by tens of thousands of bloggers, discussing the same issue. From the environment, to poverty, to this year’s theme of water, Blog Action Day is a perfect fit for PULSE, which never fails to make the connection between these “social issues” and the politics driving them, 365 days of the year.
To all of us at PULSE that follow world events (or rather “the money”, or rather “the power”) it’s very evident that water, being the very essence of basic needs for sustaining life, becomes a cynical tool, leveraged by the powerful, in order to oppress, control and often kill off whole populations of human beings deemed meaningless.
On October the 15th PULSE will dedicate itself to the issue of water, and we invite all our blogging readers to do the same.
From New York to Dubai and Bangladesh, Empire looks at the impact of US-style capitalism and asks: What does the future hold for crony capitalism? And what are the alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation?
Joseph Stiglitz and our friend Tariq Ali on Al Jazeera’s Empire.
Amidst the ongoing financial crisis, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz writes that in the modern era of globalization it is developing countries which provided important engines for economic growth, and therefore any global recovery will only be achieved in which they play a central role. The G20 continues to lack the political legitimacy required to represent so many citizens outwith their own borders, in which they channel their recovery packages through the IMF, an organisation whose policies “remain controversial-so much so that many countries are reluctant to turn to it for assistance”. Stiglitz writes:
This is not only the worse global economic downturn of the post World War era, it is also the first serious global downturn of the modern era of globalization. There is need for a global response to this global downturn. But our responses are framed at the national level, and often take insufficient account of the effect on others. The result is that there is less coordination than there should be, a smaller stimulus than would be optimal-and well less designed. Every crisis comes to an end, and this one will too. But a poorly designed stimulus means that the downturn will last longer, and the recovery will be slower, and more innocent victims will be hurt badly. Among the innocent victims of this crisis are the many developing countries-even countries that have had good regulatory and macro-economic policies-far better than those pursued by the US and some European countries-are being badly affected. While in the US, a financial crisis transformed itself into an economic crisis, in many developing countries, the economic downturn is creating a financial crisis. While the U.S. may have the resources to bail out its banks and to stimulate its economy, the developing countries cannot. Continue reading “A Global Recovery Needs A Global Response”
In his classic study of propaganda, the late Australian scholar Alex Carey writes that the 20th century was marked by three major developments: the rise of democracy, the rise of corporations, and the rise of propaganda to protect corporations from democracy. One of the aims of early 20th century propaganda was to exploit significant symbols: to associate capitalism and big business with liberty and freedom, and unions, state ownership with totalitarian collectivism. In his latest piece M. Shahid Alam’s looks at the final collapse of these connotations along with the general crisis of capitalism.
It has never been easy offering a critique of capitalism or markets to my undergraduate students. Most have never heard an unkind word about these bedrock institutions, which they know to be the foundations of American power and prosperity.
These are hallowed institutions. The power of private capital to produce jobs, wealth and freedom is one of the central dogmas that many Americans absorb with their mother’s milk. To hear this dogma challenged – in any context – is unsettling. I sometimes suspect that this bitter pill is harder to swallow because it emanates from someone who, so transparently, is not a native-born American.
As the weeks pass, however, my students appear to settle down. In the past, they have been reassured to learn that markets have done a good job at delivering prosperity to a few centers of global capitalism. They do work for us, even if they have not worked for most Asians, Africans and Latin Americans.