American strategic chess game in middle-east and south asia

ajtr

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only posting the paragraphs concerning india

American Strategy games

Let’s now consider the assumption that Israel is a critical U.S. asset. American grand strategy has always been derived from British grand strategy. The United States seeks to maintain regional balances of power in order to avoid the emergence of larger powers that can threaten U.S. interests. The Cold War was a massive exercise in the balance of power, pitting an American-sponsored worldwide alliance system against one formed by the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has acted a number of times against regional hegemons: Iraq in 1990-91, Serbia in 1999 and so on.

In the area called generally the Middle East, but which we prefer to think of as the area between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush, there are three intrinsic regional balances. One is the Arab-Israeli balance of power. The second is the Iran-Iraq balance. The third is the Indo-Pakistani balance of power. The American goal in each balance is not so much stability as it is the mutual neutralization of local powers by other local powers.

Two of the three regional balances of power are collapsed or in jeopardy. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the failure to quickly put a strong, anti-Iranian government in place in Baghdad, has led to the collapse of the central balance of power — with little hope of resurrection. The eastern balance of power between Pakistan and India is also in danger of toppling. The Afghan war has caused profound stresses in Pakistan, and there are scenarios in which we can imagine Pakistan’s power dramatically weakening or even cracking. It is unclear how this will evolve, but what is clear is that it is not in the interest of the United States because it would destroy the native balance of power with India. The United States does not want to see India as the unchallenged power in the subcontinent any more than it wants to see Pakistan in that position. The United States needs a strong Pakistan to balance India, and its problem now is how to manage the Afghan war — a side issue strategically — without undermining the strategic interest of the United States, an Indo-Pakistani balance of power.

The western balance of power, Israel and the surrounding states, is relatively stable. What is most important to the United States at this point is that this balance of power also not destabilize. In this sense, Israel is an important strategic asset. But in the broader picture, where the United States is dealing with the collapse of the central balance of power and with the destabilization of the eastern balance of power, Washington does not want or need the destabilization of the western balance — between the Israelis and Arabs — at this time. U.S. “bandwidth” is already stretched to the limit. Washington does not need another problem. Nor does it need instability in this region complicating things in the other regions.

Note that the United States is interested in maintaining the balance of power. This means that the U.S. interest is in a stable set of relations, with no one power becoming excessively powerful and therefore unmanageable by the United States. Israel is already the dominant power in the region, and the degree to which Syria, Jordan and Egypt contain Israel is limited. Israel is moving from the position of an American ally maintaining a balance of power to a regional hegemon in its own right operating outside the framework of American interests.

The United States above all wants to ensure continuity after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dies. It wants to ensure that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan remains stable. And in its attempts to manage the situation in the center and east, it wants to ensure that nothing happens in the west to further complicate an already-enormously complex situation.

There is very little Israel can do to help the United States in the center and eastern balances. On the other hand, if the western balance of power were to collapse — due to anything from a collapse of the Egyptian regime to a new Israeli war with Hezbollah — the United States might find itself drawn into that conflict, while a new intifada in the Palestinian territories would not help matters either. It is unknown what effect this would have in the other balances of power, but the United States is operating at the limits of its power to try to manage these situations. Israel cannot help there, but it could hurt, for example by initiating an attack on Iran outside the framework of American planning. Therefore, the United States wants one thing from Israel now: for Israel to do nothing that could possibly destabilize the western balance of power or make America’s task more difficult in the other regions.

Israel sees the American preoccupation in these other regions, along with the current favorable alignment of forces in its region, as an opportunity both to consolidate and expand its power and to create new realities on the ground. One of these is building in East Jerusalem, or more precisely, using the moment to reshape the demographics and geography of its immediate region. The Israeli position is that it has rights in East Jerusalem that the United States cannot intrude on. The U.S. position is that it has interests in the broader region that are potentially weakened by this construction at this time.

Israel’s desire to do so is understandable, but it runs counter to American interests. The United States, given its overwhelming challenges, is neither interested in Israel’s desire to reshape its region, nor can it tolerate any more risk deriving from Israel’s actions. However small the risks might be, the United States is maxed out on risk. Therefore, Israel’s interests and that of the United States diverge. Israel sees an opportunity; the United States sees more risk.

The problem Israel has is that, in the long run, its relationship to the United States is its insurance policy. Netanyahu appears to be calculating that given the U.S. need for a western balance of power, whatever Israel does now will be allowed because in the end the United States needs Israel to maintain that balance of power. Therefore, he is probing aggressively. Netanyahu also has domestic political reasons for proceeding with this construction. For him, this construction is a prudent and necessary step.

Obama’s task is to convince Netanyahu that Israel has strategic value for the United States, but only in the context of broader U.S. interests in the region. If Israel becomes part of the American problem rather than the solution, the United States will seek other solutions. That is a hard case to make but not an impossible one. The balance of power is in the eastern Mediterranean, and there is another democracy the United States could turn to: Turkey — which is more than eager to fulfill that role and exploit Israeli tensions with the United States.

It may not be the most persuasive threat, but the fact is that Israel cannot afford any threat from the United States, such as an end to the intense U.S.-Israeli bilateral relationship. While this relationship might not be essential to Israel at the moment, it is one of the foundations of Israeli grand strategy in the long run. Just as the United States cannot afford any more instability in the region at the moment, so Israel cannot afford any threat, however remote, to its relationship with the United States.
 

ajtr

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For US, world is a chessboard

Premen Addy

The Obama Administration is as much in need of healthcare as the American people. By supping with the Pakistani leadership without the prescriptive long spoon, the US President and his advisers are guaranteeing a mightier inferno for the AfPak landscape than the one consuming it. The price demanded by the Pakistani Government for past and present services rendered to the American imperium amounts to a brazen $ 35 billion, with a few nuclear power plants, squadrons of F-16s and other lethal weaponry thrown in for good measure.

How the discussions in the Oval Office of the White House pan out will be known soon enough, but the promised consummation of the India-US relationship is likely to remain the 21st century’s unfulfilled dream. Just as well, for tying the knot on the deck of another doomed Titanic — Pakistan in this instance — would hardly make good copy or a riveting film. However, the mystery of David Coleman Headley might, one day, do both, with its darkest secrets revealed and an Oscar to be won.

The world's ‘sole superpower’, the prayerful refrain of acolytes of the living Moloch, bears more than a passing resemblance to Gulliver trussed up and bound to the ground by legions of Taliban and Al Qaeda Lilliputians in Afghanistan and Iraq and the earth beyond. Superpower hubris is no assurance of second sight. Mr George W Bush proclaimed a famous victory in Iraq from the deck of an American battleship and the pronouncement, in due course, crumbled to dust.

Newsweek reproduced a picture of the former US President savouring his triumph in 2004 against its report of the recently deemed success of an Iraqi general election. What price such traduced freedom? A broken nation boasting multitudes of orphaned cripples, thousands of dead and millions living as insecure refugees abroad; a country gifted with intermittent power and water by its mendacious occupier, its innards torn out, its confessional communities at each other’s throats with bombs, bullets and anything else that came to hand.

Truth will out, but not clearly in the Anglo-American media. The fourth-rate estate has long been reduced to a complicit parody in a lacquered criminal syndicate. Their news coverage refracts the seamless engagement between what can be seen as the world’s second-oldest profession with the world’s oldest. Checks and balances are nursery rhymes for lulled innocents cutting their milk teeth at their mother’s breasts. Al Capone and Goebbels embodied fascism’s infancy, today’s finished product boasts a corporate face.

International alignments, once cast in stone, are in flux. Nato, like Shelley’s Ozymandias, could well become a half-buried trunkless head of stone in the sands of Araby. You wouldn’t have thought so leafing through the insouciance of Mr Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Polish American geostrategic guru hired by the Obama campaign team for the 2008 US presidential election, whose worldview may well be haunting the corridors of power in Washington, DC. As President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser between 1976-80, his advice was inevitably coloured with the Pole’s primordial hatred of Russians.

Apropos of clandestine US activity in Afghanistan, which pre-dated the Soviet appearance in the country, he said: “This secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap. You want me to regret that?” (Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism by John K Cooley). In his book, Cooley writes, “Brzezinski, like President Carter’s CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner ... freely acknowledged that the possible adverse consequences of the anti-Communist alliance with the Afghan Islamists (and shortly afterward, with their radical Muslim allies around the world) — the growth of a new international terrorist movement and the global outreach of South Asian drug trafficking — did not weigh heavily, if at all, in their calculations at the time.”

Years later, March 20, 2010, to be precise, The Times correspondent, Anthony Loyd, in Peshawar, described how a motley group of jihadis — Arabs, Uzbeks and Pakistani Punjabis — were giving the American and their allies a particularly hard time in Afghanistan. The 1,500 Uzbeks, apparently the most formidable of the lot, usually fought to the last man.

Three days later, on March 23, came a front-page Daily Telegraph report, with the headline: “Dirty nuclear bomb threat to Britain”. Duncan Gardham’s opening paragraph set the scene: “Britain faces an increased threat of a nuclear attack by Al Qaeda terrorists following a rise in the trafficking of radiological material, a Government report has warned. Bomb makers who have been active in Afghanistan may already have the ability to produce a ‘dirty bomb’ using knowledge over the Internet. It is feared that terrorists could transport an improvised nuclear device up the Thames and detonate it in the heart of London” and other British cities.

“Lord West, the Security Minister, also raised the possibility of terrorists using small small craft to enter ports and launch an attack similar to that in Mumbai in 2008 ... The terrorist group since then had approached Pakistani nuclear scientists, developed a device to produce hydrogen cyanide, which can be used in chemical warfare, and used explosives in Iraq combined with chlorine gas cylinders,” the report says. Frankenstein’s monster is now stalking its creator. President Barack Obama and his aides will have much to discuss with their Pakistani guests. If only the fly on the wall could speak and write proper English what a tale it would have to tell.

Following the demise of the Soviet Union, Mr Brzezinski, inebriated by the chaos of the Yeltsin dispensation in Moscow, issued his projection of the future, The Great Chessboard. Eurasia, the subject of his title, with its oil and geostrategic location was preordained to be a giant American bailiwick. Controlled tenancies for Russia, India and China, etc, would form part of the Pax Americana. The book’s sting came in its tail, the reference to “China’s support for Pakistan (which) restrains India’s ambitions to subordinate that country and offsets India’s inclination to cooperate with Russia in regard to Afghanistan and Central Asia”.

Mr Brzezinski confides in his Chinese interlocutors in 1996 — recalled in an extensive footnote in his book, published the following year — on a possible US-China condominium for the region, inspiration, possibly, for Mr Obama’s hint of G2 summits floated in Beijing last autumn. Its eccentricity is reminiscent of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, whereby the Pope in Rome divided the newly discovered dominions of Asia and Africa between the Catholic Majesties of Spain and Portugal.

To George Nathaniel Curzon, player extraordinary of Kipling’s Great Game, belongs surely the final word: “Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia ... To me, I confess, these names are the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world.” This being 2010, checkmate, alas, it must be.
 

nandu

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Hillary makes it loud & clear: US proud to stand with their patrons

NEW DELHI: The US has initiated a high-level dialogue with Pakistan with the aim of broadening ties and establishing a long-term strategic relationship. As a result, Washington which earlier refused to even talk about the possibility of a civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan has signalled its willingness to consider the Pakistani request for an agreement and expressed its intention of supplying Pakistan with military hardware.

Pakistan’s increased importance was signaled by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who praised the Pakistani Army for fighting terror after launching the strategic dialogue in Washington. Ms Clinton said at a press conference with Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that Pakistan is no longer “unaided and that the US is proud to stand with it.”

She pledged full support for Pakistan saying “its struggles are our struggles.” Maintaining that the US and Pakistan “have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past” she said “there are sure to be more disagreements in the future, as there are between any friends or, frankly, any family members...But this is a new day. For the past year, the Obama administration has shown in our words and deeds a different approach and attitude toward Pakistan.”

The US sees Pakistan as the main ally in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A Washington Post report said the Obama administration ``hopes that the high-level talks will consolidate the new partnership the president promised last fall in exchange for Pakistan’s cooperation in shutting down Taliban and al-Qaeda havens.’’

In this context India’s real concerns on Pakistan sponsored terrorism are not expected to feature very high in the US calculation. Even though Washington maintained that the upgradation of ties with Pakistan would not affect Indo-US ties. Washington’s outreach to Pakistan is being seen as an attempt to make Islamabad feel that it is at par with New Delhi. Even Indian concerns about increasing military aid to Pakistan without proper checks and balances have fallen on deaf ears.

The only area that the US is concerned about is a possible escalation of tension between India and Pakistan and that too in the context of the fallout on Afghanistan. Washington is unlikely to press Islamabad for action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror groups targeting India as it seeks to remove the trust deficit with Pakistan. “This is a dialogue designed to produce a better long-term strategic relationship between our two countries. This is not simply about asking and receiving items,” the Pentagon press secretary was quoted as saying.

Through this week, the Pakistani leadership has been holding intensive discussions with the Obama administration. Pakistan’s Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani held talks with defence secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the joint chief of staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Pakistan has been lobbying US for ``shoot-and-kill’’ drones, a technology that is closely guarded by the US. Gen Kayani also met separately with US central command General David Petraeus. According to a statement, the two “discussed ways to advance co-operation and collaboration in countering extremist violence in Afghanistan, as well as US support for Pakistan’s struggle against violent extremists at home.’’

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com
 

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