City of Brass

City of Brass

a victory for toilets and holograms: Narendra Modi is India’s new Prime Minister

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

As predicted by everyone, Narendra Modi has won the election and is India’s new Prime Minister.

Some essential background on the Indian elections here, by John Oliver on HBO (because American news media FAIL):

Modi won with substantial support of Muslims in India, despite his role in the Gujrat riots. I hope that Modi takes that lesson of forgiveness and trust to heart as he governs for all of India, not just the majority.

The flip side is Rahul Gandhi, who was probably the most anemic candidate that Congress could have fielded. Watch Gandhi’s disastrous interview by TV host Arnab Goswani and you will see how unprepared he was:

(the full transcript is here and it’s as painful to read as it is to watch)

and compare Goswani’s interview with Gandhi to his interview with Modi:

It’s no wonder Modi destroyed Gandhi. And frankly I don’t see how a dynastic, inefective candidate like Gandhi would have been any better for India. At best he would have perpetuated the status quo; at worst he would have exacerbated the worst instincts of Indian politics towards corruption and waste and bureaucratic inertia.

Modi was always going to win. The future of India is in his hands. Let’s hope that having achieved his ambition, he now can focus on his legacy and can resist the calls of Hindu nationalism to create their version of paradise. Modi is Muslims’ prime minister, too.

the silver lining to the Iraq War

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Here’s an article by a defense industry analyst that goes out of its way to avoid mentioning who and what political party was responsible for the Iraq War while assidously making the case that said war has paralyzed American military decisionmaking in the long run:

Without Iraq’s enormous price, the once unassailable U.S. military strength would be whole, intact, unrivaled, and unquestioned. Had we not fought in Iraq, the reach, capability, and capacity still required of a great power with global interests would not be in jeopardy as it is today. For example, because the U.S. military had to rapidly expand to fight two simultaneous ground wars, personnel costs (some of which are likely fixed and irreversible) soared so much that U.S. leadership now recognize them to be unsustainable.

Further, the kind of war Iraq became — a grinding and costly counterinsurgency (COIN) — not only resulted in rejection of future U.S. involvement in wars like it, but also in near rejection of the necessity for robust ground forces in general. Air and sea forces weren’t immune to harm either. A decade plus of irregular war in the greater Middle East resulted in material and conceptual neglect in high-end warfighting and emerging threats like a rising China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia. In short, long-overdue defense innovation is certain to run headlong into war weariness and tight budgets.
[...]
The Iraq experience has had such a dramatic negative impact on U.S. risk calculations that it has effectively blunted all appetite for future intervention in response to failed political authority regardless of where, when, and under what conditions it occurs or no matter what’s at stake.

read the whole thing.

Obviously, the author sees this as a bad thing, but all the evidence he marshals in support of making that claim actually undermines that premise. Frankly, if military forbearance is the legacy of the Iraq War, then at least we got something for our efforts. If every adventurist President in the future sees the long shadow of Iraq on the wall while they debate making a play for oil and pseudo-imperialism in the future, perhaps we can actually avoid even more costly mistakes to come.

If not for Iraq, then would we be engaging Russia right now over Crimea? Would we be on the ground in Syria? Would we have intervened militarily in Egypt? Honestly, the real question to ask is, if not for Iraq, would we have had a President McCain or President Romney – both of whom made no secret of their disdain for President Obama’s choices to end the Iraq War, withdraw from Afghanistan, engage in limited fashion in Libya, avoid bombing Iran, and doing “something” about Syria, Crimea, etc.

The fact that these defense industry policy people can’t even bring themselves to name names about who the architects of the Iraq War were is further evidence of their denial of reality, a denial that I hope continues to keep them isolated from the corridors of power and policy for a long time to come.

Related: the famous “strategic overview” by famed warblogger Steven den Beste, which was quoted by all the pro-Iraq people in the runup to war. That was a dark time. Arguments like those convinced even many liberals to support the Iraq War. It’s worth reading the document now because it encapsulates the thinking which we can now see in hindsight was 100% as wrong as those of us against the Iraq War said it was. Vindication is a bitter pill though, in this case.

Video: (muslim) Mehdi Hasan interviews (atheist) Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is an excellent debate between the most emphatic atheist of our time, Richard Dawkins, and political journalist Mehdi Hasan. Hasan is brilliantly prepared for the debate and treats Dawkins with utmost respect, but methodically defends belief and religion as a force for good.

There are some astonishing admissions made by Dawkins here that really undermine his more polemical assertions against religion. A great interview because Hasan does an absolutely superb job of rebutting and grounding Dawkins’ claims.

If I can find a transcript, I’ll include it, but this is a must-watch. Hasan is brilliant.

Two Bohras come to aid of Frenchwoman attacked in Mumbai

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

In the past two months I’ve traveled to India three times, to attend the funeral and other events after the passing of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (ra). This quite shocking story happened in the Fort area of Mumbai, which is quite close to where I spent much of my time and is considered one of the better-developed areas on the city.

Barely a few hours after arriving in the city, a homeless psychopath attacked a 57-year-old Frenchwoman near Sterling Cinema in Fort around 7 pm Thursday, repeatedly slashing her face with a sharp object, before he was caught by passersby and handed over to police.

The victim, Caroline Claudon, had also arrived in the city in the morning, and checked into Salvation Army Red Shield Guest House in Colaba, after spending around four weeks in Gokarna, a temple town in Karnataka.

While [the attacker] was caught within seconds of the attack, two men, Idris Sathalia, 32 Husain Saylawala, 34, who were on their way home after attending a Dawoodi Bohra rally at Azad Maidan, rushed a bleeding Claudon to St George’s Hospital.

As the article says, the two men are members of my Bohra community and were attending the rally in support of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (tus) at Azad Maidan nearby. I think I speak for all Bohras when I say that they exemplify the values of compassion and civic duty that both Syedna Burhanuddin (ra) and Syedna Saifuddin (tus) have taught by example.

A followup article shows that Mrs. Claudon also is quite a remarkable individual – undeterred from the attack, she intends to visit India again and expressed compassion for her attacker, who was found to be mentally unstable. Surely her positive attitude also has something to do with her guardian angels:

The two good Samaritans, who had rushed to French national Caroline Claudon’s (57) rescue, paid her a surprise visit on Friday morning at her guesthouse in Colaba. A day after being attacked by a deranged man in Fort, Claudon said she will only take back the positives from her month-long visit to India.

“I hardly slept, but woke up to find the two of them here,” she said about Hussain Saylawala and Ibris Sathalia who came to enquire about her health with flowers and fruits. “It was a very kind gesture,” Claudon said. “I was scared and bleeding in the middle of the road when they helped me and took me to the hospital,” she said. The duo had rushed Claudon to St George Hospital.

Claudon said the incident did shake her but did not scare her. “I am a world citizen who loves to travel. One such incident cannot deter me from visiting India again,” she said, adding that it was her sixth visit to the country.

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