George Dubya Bush's victory in the US Presidential election turned out, in the end, to be easier than expected: he ended up with a majority of some 3 million votes, and a clear win in the electoral college. No repeat of the hanky-panky from 2000, no talk of hanging chads and other such absurdities.
The neo-conservatives managed to pull one off for the Gipper, victory from the jaws of defeat, etc. Mostly, I am sure, by rallying the born-again faithful to vote in large numbers.
I am rather relieved that Bush won. I said some time ago that it doesn't make any difference to India which of the Kerry-Bush duo wins, because they will, quite correctly, only pursue America's national interests. But I do see a silver lining in the results.
Also Read: US policy towards India won't change
I remain ambivalent about Bush II, and I did argue elsewhere that Kerry would win based on his momentum after the debates. But over the last few weeks, I had begun to sour on Kerry and the Democrats, for the following reasons among others:
- While Republicans lean towards unilateralism and Christian fundamentalism, Democrats have tended to be ideological fundamentalists regarding their views on how the world should be: and they are stuck in a Cold War time-warp regarding power equations.
- Kerry is an internationalist, but his view of 'alliances' is limited to Europe. This is a general problem with East-Coast types. Henry Kissinger (that old war criminal) has used the term 'Atlanticist' to describe them. In a world where power is shifting inexorably towards the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Atlanticists are quaint anachronisms. The prime mouthpiece of the 'Atlanticist' perspective (which I have for long termed the NATO perspective) is the Economist magazine, and they, as well as the New York Times, predictably endorsed Kerry.
- Kerry was certain to resurrect the CTBT and NPT and to nag India about 'cap and rollback.' This is harassment India doesn't need. And he wouldn't have done a thing to control Chinese and Pakistani nuclear proliferation.
- Kerry would very likely have exhumed Robin Raphel from well-deserved obscurity and re-installed her as his 'South Asia' expert. This woman is one of the nastiest people India has had to deal with. For some reason, there are a bunch of American women in media and bureaucracy who simply hate India: Barbara Crossette, Madeleine Albright, and Christina Rocca leap to mind. What did we do to them? At least Raphel has the excuse that she thinks Indians blew up the plane with her ex-husband as well as Pakistani President Zia on board.
- Kerry would have been much more into the State Department's Cold-War mindset. We could have expected much more of the India-Pakistan-equal-equal perspective so beloved of the worthies of Foggy Bottom.
- Kerry's protectionist instincts would, however, have been ameliorated by the reality of facts on the ground, and by corporate fat-cat money that he too was dependent on: he would have done little on job-outsourcing despite all the sound and fury.
- Anything the 'South Asia' crowd of alienated Indians in the US wants must be ipso facto bad for India, because these people are babes in the woods.
- I am sick and tired of hearing Kerry referred to as a 'Boston Brahmin.' If Americans can expropriate and misuse Indian terms, why not do the reverse? I guess I should start calling Teesta Setalvad a 'Bombay Baptist' for being such a narrow-minded fundamentalist. And Jyoti Basu a 'Calcutta Calvinist' for being a messianic and bigoted ideologue.
Of course, with Bush II there are many worries: he may treat his victory not as a narrow one, but as a sweeping mandate, much as the Old Leftists and Nehruvian Stalinists in India have treated their slender edge in May 2004 as a heaven-sent mandate to bowdlerize, re-toxify, purge and generally run amok. Since the Bushie neo-conservatives are equally intolerant, this is a distinct possibility. After all, Bush will never have to face another election again; with a solid Republican majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives also with them, he can pretty much do whatever he wants.
With his blind faith (see the rather frightening article Without a Doubt in the New York Times of October 17th http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html?pagewanted=print&position= ) Bush is capable of creating great havoc, as we have seen most recently with the ultra-conservatives of the Marxist variety: eg. the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, who in passing, have started becoming evangelical Christians lately, which I suppose could be considered another side of the same blind-faith coin.
But I doubt if Bush will do anything to rescue American from its ongoing economic downslide. I remember a time, around 1984, when the dollar and the UK pound were close to parity: I think the pound was worth $1.30. That was about the only time I could afford to buy a fancy Burberry overcoat that I had been coveting; alas, I didn't buy then. In twenty years, the dollar has slid by 40% (yes, forty per cent) against the UK pound: I bought pounds at $1.83 when I was in the UK recently. Isn't this a symptom of genteel American poverty? I personally felt really poor in London.
Clearly Bush will continue down the path of unilateral crusades against Muslims and anybody else that his faith tells him to fight with. I have been saying for some time that India should lie low in this scenario: and keep reminding the Americans that India is a possible counterweight to China.
India's stock seems to have risen somewhat lately. Henry Kissinger, writing in the Khaleej Times (Center of Gravity Shifting, November 2nd actually included India in the list of major powers without bringing in India-Pakistan-equal-equal as usual. Similarly, Richart Haass, a Bush I honcho, writing in the Economist (The world on his desk, November 4th) also included India in the 'major powers' list, although not in the 'great powers' list. I am indebted to Professor Vaidya for pointing out to me that this is now seen more often: India is no longer referred to as a 'regional power.' Thanks, I guess, to the 8 per cent GDP growth last year, and to the BRIC report. This does imply that India is on the US radar screen to some extent in a benign manner.
Also Read: What will Bush II mean for India
Despite the fact that it is extremely irritating to India, Bush's chumminess with Musharraf needs to be seen in context. The neo-cons -- Christian fundamentalists that they are -- have no real love lost for Musharraf, but they feel that they need him to keep up the pretense of searching for Osama bin Laden. I am really disappointed that there was no 'October Surprise' of bin Laden being delivered to the Americans on a platter by Musharraf, but I guess the idea had become too passé. There might, however, be a 'January Surprise' or something like that, whenever Bush needs to produce something to distract the public: bin Laden's delivery would do the trick.
Once bin Laden is captured, and the nukes are secured, Bush and company will return to the usual American stance on Pakistan: treating it as the 'international condom' as British-Pakistani Tariq Ali once said; namely, to be used and flushed down the toilet.
For the moment, then, it is the status quo, the known devil. A lot of Indian-Americans are upset on purely ideological grounds, but I think on balance Bush II is better for India than a Kerry administration would have been. But India needs to keep its big mouth shut; and love peace but keep the powder dry.
Thanks to reader JB for pointing out that John F Kennedy never traveled to India, the famous photograph of Nehru and Kennedy was actually taken in the Rose Garden at the White House, the US President's home.
Speaking of propaganda and the use of history as a weapon, I was intrigued to see the following ad recently: 'They Didn't Call Him Alexander The Spineless.' It was a blurb for an obviously breathless hagiography of Alexander the Macedonian to be broadcast on what, loosely speaking, is called the 'History' Channel.
By age 13, he was being tutored by Aristotle. By age 16, he was crowned regent of Macedonia. By age 25, he had toppled the Persian Empire and conquered Egypt. By 31, he created the greatest empire known to ancient man. No wonder they called him great.
Yeah, right. They should also call him 'the brutal,' the 'barbaric,' 'the learning-impaired.' For he was indeed a brutal, semi-literate barbarian, 'a gangster, a hoodlum, a thug', according to a new book by Paul Cartledge, Alexander the Great: The Search for a New Past reviewed by The Guardian.
It appears China is facing unrest from its Muslim minorities and about 150 people died in riots (see http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/01/international/asia/01china.html ) between Hans and Hui Muslims. I wondered exactly how India's Left will react to this: who would they support, the Han Chinese Marxists or the Hui Muslims? See also http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/FJ29Ad02.html The Old Leftists have kept very quiet. I can understand their unbearable dilemma.
In Kerala, mediapersons were assaulted http://in.news.yahoo.com/041102/43/2hn2n.html by Muslims -- and this during their holy month -- for broadcasting an interview with a woman, Regina, who had allegedly been molested and sexually exploited by Muslim League minister P K Kunjalikutty. This has brought Marxists out against Muslims for the first time in living memory in Kerala. Marxists were heard thundering about the rights of women as well as the freedom of speech. A case of the pot calling the kettle black?
In another incident related to women and freedom of speech, a relative of the Dutch painter van Gogh was stabbed and shot to death in The Netherlands apparently by a Moroccan Muslim immigrant enraged that the filmmaker had made a 'blasphemous' film which spoke about women's rights and oppression under Islam. A note pinned to the dead man's body contained a warning to a Somali-born woman, a former Muslim, who wrote the film's script http://www.sulekha.com/news/nhc.aspx?cid=406839
I guess there are several ways to encourage the media to not say things you don't like.
In the Et tu Brute? department, UPA Finance Minister P Chidambaram allows that Nehruism wrought havoc on India. A report in the Asian Age dated September 8, 2004 ('PC blames Nehru') appears to suggest the unthinkable, that Nehruvian Stalinism has been an economic crime against humanity: an idea for which I regularly get abused by the Old Left and their running-dogs. Amazing that Chidambaram should say this publicly, considering that he is beholden to the Dynasty for his job.
Anyway Chidambaram pulled no punches, it appears, and I quote:
'Colossal damage was done in these 30 years [My comment: the first 30 years post-independence when Nehruvian Stalinism ruled unchallenged] as the heavy hand of state intervention destroyed all sense of responsibility and private enterprise, specially among the rural people.'
'The disappearance of individual enterprise resulted in the people losing their sense of responsibility and pride in attending to development work in their villages. They, instead, look for State intervention at all levels, even desilting a village pond. The effect of this attitude of alienation, particularly among the rural people, contributed significantly to Indian poverty as a majority of its billion people lived in villages.'
'We paid a heavy price for this. It will take 200 years to wipe out poverty.'
Amen to that. He was of course referring to the 2 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, the Nehruvian Rate of Growth. The result? 250 million Indians condemned to remain below the poverty line: this is otherwise known as the Nehruvian Penalty (see my previous column on this topic). Chidambaram said all this at the release of a book by Abraham George named Untouched: The Forgotten Face of Rural Poverty.
Miracles never cease: praise the Lord, indeed. Famous 'secular' 'progressive' Mallika Sarabhai recently announced at Stanford that she was all for the Uniform Civil Code. Maybe there is something in the air that is suddenly lifting the veil of maya from all these people's eyes.