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Monday, January 31

How Beer Saved the World

The Awesomer website cautiously announced ahead of the hour-long documentary's premiere on January 30, "We're not sure if the Discovery Network is playing an early April Fools Day prank or if there’s truth to the stories behind their special about beer’s world-transforming properties."

It was no prank: amazingly, astoundingly, laugh aloud in astonishment and delight, it turns out that beer had a key role in raising up civilization, sustaining it and pushing it forward. As one historian said during the film the most accurate marker for human history is actually beer. And the world has filmmakers at the Discovery Network cable channel to thank for bringing this stupendous news to the attention of the general public.

Beer. Who knew that beer played a key role in the building of the pyramids and the founding of America? Or that it played a life-saving role in many societies where much of the available water was unfit to drink? And that pivotal sciences, technologies, medicine, engineering marvels and mathematics of the ancient and modern world were driven by the beer-making process and the quest to improve beer, preserve and bottle it?

Even the demise of child labor in the United States was brought about by beer -- more specifically by the mass production of glass beer bottles, a process that predated Henry Ford's assembly line -- because the making of handmade glass was the biggest user of child labor.

"How Beer Saved the World" is an engineering marvel in itself. Probably the role that beer played in a particular field of endeavor is known within the field. But the documentary strings together all those roles so that beer's great importance to civilization emerges. The saga of beer is also beautifully told in the documentary with animation, reenactments, historical footage, riveting anecdotes, and all tied together with a big helping of wry humor.

The documentary will air again on February 14, at 8:00 PM (probably with a re-run later in the night) but I'm betting it will be so popular, once word gets around about the show, it'll air several times this year.

As to whether the saga will continue in the present era: the documentary ends with a look at efforts to make beer drinkable during commercial space travel -- a task easier said than done because burping at zero gravity in confined quarters is not a good idea.

But I was struck by the beer drunk by Egyptians in the ancient era; low in alcohol content (3 percent), chock full of vitamins and minerals and an antibiotic that was not formally discovered until the 1940s, it was the diet staple and as much food and medicine as drink. So one shouldn't wonder why the ancient Egyptians were known as a good-natured people.

Formulas for the Egyptian beer have been preserved; maybe it's time to resurrect some version of it and bottle it in medicinal quantities. Such a beer might wean moderns from substance abuse and pill popping for a host of minor ailments both mental and physical, and in general promote a more phlegmatic attitude about life's bumps and sprains.

Cheers!

February 1 Update
Here's the link to today's follow-up Pundita post on how beer saved the world, in which I examine Fjordman's wonderful 2009 essay, The History of Beer.

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Wednesday, January 26

What Pentagon, State Department, U.S. and other civilian NATO leaders could learn from Tabatha Coffey's lessons in hair salon management

I refused to watch "Tabatha's Salon Takeover" reality series on Bravo cable TV during its first two seasons.

"It's about hair," I snorted.

This just goes to show that one should never be a snob when casting around for solutions to problems in the U.S. defense and foreign policy establishments. As I learned when I finally caught an episode it's not really about the hair, which is also the title of Tabatha Coffey's just-published book.

The book is part memoir (she started working in the hair salon business when she was 14; she's now 41), part self-help guide, and part business management manual. It's that last which makes the show a 'must watch' for anyone running a small business start-up of any kind -- and indeed for anyone who wants to learn to be a better boss and leader.

I talked a friend, who also has no interest in hairdressing, into watching an episode. After he saw Tabatha in action he said admiringly, "She's Rommel."

I don't know enough about Erwin Rommel to say whether he would be the right comparison in the military sphere but after watching re-runs of several of the shows, I can see why my friend said what he did; she does indeed demonstate traits that I think are common to all great generals.

Tabatha's job on the show is to turn around failing hair salons; this invariably involves teaching the salon owners to be better bosses and the staff to be better employees (and better hair stylists). Given that she only has one week to rescue a troubled salon her leadership is consistently a tour de force.

The show's producers probably weed out the candidates with serious psychological problems although some salon owners that Tabatha encounters have personal issues that are at the root of their failing business; in such cases Tabatha has to juggle what's in essence an intervention with rescuing the business end of the salon. However, the majority of the failing salons are owned by people whose skill at hair styling allowed them to build enough of a clientele to open their own salon, but who don't have sufficient business experience and skill at managing employees. The upshot is that the salons run into financial trouble.

As the unpaid bills pile up and the owners' face bankruptcy they become a walking textbook of the Boss From Hell: blaming their mistakes on the staff, starting a cold war with the staff or morphing into petty tyrants -- or flipping to the opposite pole and trying to be a pal to the employees.

Such tactics naturally engender the classic employee responses to such treatment, which range from outright mutiny, to insubordination, to subtle sabotage, to a bunker mentality, to running riot, to loss of confidence and pride in their work and place of employment.

And for their part, many of the stylists employed in the salons have only their time at an American public high school and trade school as their guide to professional behavior. Such employees have no military service experience to help them forge self-discipline in a business setting, no experience with working in a corporate setting to teach them a standard of professional conduct. And many of the stylists demonstrate only the most tenuous grasp of the concept of customer service.

So Tabatha often walks into a kind of human zoo, with each stylist doing his or her own thing, and resenting any critique on the argument that they're artistes and must suffer no dampening of their free spirits.

(If this situation sounds faintly familiar, reference the Afghan War. And start with the early days of the U.S. invasion, which saw Vice President Dick Cheney take it into his head, without consulting the Commander-in-Chief or CENTCOM -- or anyone, for that matter -- to arrange an airlift out of Afghanistan for Pakistani military personnel. The personnel had been overseeing Taliban fighting against Afghans working on the U.S. side. That airlift of a few Pakistani officers morphed into an air bridge that allowed God Knows how many Taliban and al Qaeda commanders to evade capture in Afghanistan and skip out to Pakistan.)

From all that chaos Tabatha has to wrest order before she can persuade the owner and employees to follow her recommendations for transforming a failing salon into a profitable business. She does this first by taking command through the sheer force of her personality, then instilling respect for her leadership through her insightful questions and comments to the staff and owner, by teaching the employees the importance of respecting the owner's authority and conducting themselves in a professional manner, and by instilling or rekindling pride among the employees in their profession. She also inspires the owner and staff to build esprit d'corps and teaches the salon owner the ropes of good management.

If you ask, 'She does all that in a week?' -- all that and much more, although she has longer than a week to assess each salon's personnel situation and business model. She also provides technical advice on developing a successful small business model and specifically a hair salon model. Plus, she oversees a physical overhaul of the salon via improved decor and floor layout and new equipment, which the producer provides the salon for free. And she identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each hair stylist's technical skills and provides training and recommendations to improve the skills..

Before you wonder if she also walks on water, she does have a few things going for her when she embarks on a rescue mission:

> The candidates for a salon makeover are truly desperate for help; the owners are so deeply in debt that several not only stand to lose the salon but also their house, which they've mortgaged to the hilt in the attempt to keep the salon's doors open. Thus, the owners who contact Bravo to request that she rescue their salon are highly motivated to follow Tabatha's recommendations. They view her as the court of last resort.

> Tabatha Coffey is a superstar in the hairdressing world. Her technical expertise and creativity as a hair stylist and success as a salon owner are known to every person in the business.

> At least by the second season of "Tabatha's Salon Takeover," it's now in its third), the people she helps have followed her show and, so they're aware of her success at identifying and correcting a salon's problems, and thus they're weighted to at least listen to her recommendations.

> Her unannounced, highly theatrical entrance into the salon is calculated to produce shock and awe in the staff. Up that point the staff are rarely aware of how bad the salon's finances are. So just the mere appearance of the famous Tabatha at their salon clues the staff that the salon is about to crash and burn, which means they're facing the prospect of joblessness. That sobering reality, in addition to all the above is enough to give Tabatha a big advantage in the first hours of her salon takeover.

She also has one surprising advantage up her sleeve, which I think can make her more effective than many advisors who are hired to turn around failing small businesses: she is openly and famously a lesbian. While inspecting a closet in one salon she quipped, "This is the first time I've been in a closet in years."

What this means is that the staff and employees can't argue that the discipline she imposes will turn free-spirited artistes into Stepford Wives. And they know that her fame as a hair stylist is based on the unique, tailor-made hair style she creates for every client instead of wreaking a cookie-cutter fad haircut on them.

Tabatha Coffey's life is a demonstration that creativity and individualism can get along just fine with a highly disciplined, professional approach to business.

Yet much of the drama of the show arises from human nature in the raw. Despite the owner's desperation and respect for her reputation, and even after Tabatha has had the owner watch footage of a day in the salon, which shows in merciless detail the owner's failings as a boss, some of the owners fight her tooth and nail before they'll improve their attitude and behavior. Or they fight her in a passive way, by nodding like bobble-heads at every recommendation but continuing on as before. It's here that one can see in Tabatha the qualities that make for a great general. Consider two great generals;

Given the universal respect that Temujin commanded among his officers by the time he became known as Genghis Khan, it can surprise students of his life that for years his forging of Mongol tribes into an army was like herding cats. The other tribal leaders considered that they knew more about warfare than he did, if only on the basis of being older, and to a man they were very independent-minded.

It was much the same for General Eisenhower while he served as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War Two. He was dealing with gigantic egos, all of which believed they knew the best way to wage a war.

In short, no matter how desperate the salon owners, and despite their agreement to cede their authority to Tabatha for a week, they are commanders of their own little army, so to speak. Thus, Tabatha's greatest challenge is to help the owners transform from bad commanders into good ones without breaking their fighting spirit or asking them to strip themselves of their uniqueness. Because she approaches the salon makeover from that vantage point the show is an incredibly valuable teaching aid not only for businesspeople but also for military officers.

However, it's Tabatha's insights about mission drift that I find particularly applicable to the efforts of the U.S. military and State Department in Afghanistan. If you ask how a hair salon could suffer from mission drift -- you can't believe some of the situations she's encountered.

There was the owner who decided that the best way to shore up flagging business was by creating a singles' bar atmosphere in the salon and getting the customers, employees and himself drunk every day. Try to imagine what a drunk hair stylist can do to a client's hair while wielding a bottle of hair dye and scissors.

There was the owner who determined that the way to profits was to offer coupons for free and discounted haircuts and hair coloring work. At the point Tabatha arrived there were 40 different coupon programs, which had turned the salon into a kind of direct mail operation with stylists stuffing coupons into envelopes for much of the day, which took them away from their styling duties.

On the day that the Bravo hidden cameras were turned on in the salon they showed a woman, lured in by a coupon, sitting in a chair for two hairs waiting to be served before she gave up and left -- then being chased in the parking lot by the receptionist, who'd been too busy stuffing envelopes to notice that no work had been done on her hair, and who demanded that she pay up for her hair cut.

Those of us who remembered the brutal turf war between Pentagon and State in the wake of 9/11 were overjoyed about the successful teaming of David Petraeus and career diplomat Ryan Crocker. Their experience, technical expertise, and close cooperation helped work wonders in Iraq.

But by the spring of 2009 it was obvious that the Afghan campaign was suffering from mission drift. It was substituting policing actions and haphazard attempts at nation building for warfare, on the rationalization that this was good population-centric counterinsurgency (POPCOIN) doctrine.

The problem was that unlike Iraq, Afghanistan does not have a true insurgency -- not in enough measure to warrant heavy reliance on POPCOIN tactics. Instead, Afghanistan has a proxy war being orchestrated by Pakistan's military.

And yet in the attempt to win hearts and minds among illusory insurgents, the NATO troops were ordered to act in the manner of police serving in the most sophisticated community outreach programs in American big-city police forces. This approach caused unnecessary deaths and maiming to NATO troops and Afghan civilians, and by the summer of 2009 it was causing what was termed by several observers as low troop morale.

What was happening among the troops was worse than low morale. It was a growing hatred among the troops for the Afghans they were protecting, and who were setting IEDs as soon as the troops turned their backs on them. What was happening was a growing contempt for the military authority. For many NATO soldiers serving in Afghanistan, military service had come to have no meaning beyond keeping each other alive within their individual units.

The attitude of the troops was mirrored among many Afghans; they came to hate the troops and to believe that NATO wasn't serious about defeating the Taliban. And so, from a sense of self-preservation, they began tolerating the Taliban who returned to rule their regions and cooperating with them.

The arrival of Gen. Petraeus as the supreme commander in Afghanistan, once he got all his ducks in a row, reversed some of the worst aspects of the situation. But by then the U.S. Department of State was increasingly acting according to its own lights in Afghanistan with the encouragement of Robert Gates -- a U.S. Secretary of Defense who has been promoting an approach to warfare that relies heavily on theories of 'third-world' development, as found in organizations such as the World Bank.

It's an allover situation that Tabatha Coffey would instantly recognize as mission drift and a destroyer of the leadership authority that is the backbone of any successful group enterprise.

State is not a development institution. Yet State's deep involvement in development since it virtually took over USAID, coupled with its direct involvement in nation building efforts in Afghanistan, has increasingly muddied the waters of its diplomatic mission. And it's placed State on the defensive regarding complaints about the development initiatives in Afghanistan, which even include charges of corruption arising from dealings with contractors.

Meanwhile, the discipline that was evident in the Petraeus-Crocker alliance and their respective teams at State and CENTCOM collapsed in Afghanistan. One reason for this is that the Iraq operation was clearly run by one country -- the USA -- while the Afghan operation represents more of a group effort. This has translated into the nation-building aspect of POPCOIN being shared by several governments and the development contractors favored by major governments in NATO. Discipline has broken down because of this with entire areas of the war not under clear lines of authority.

One way to clarify the lines of authority would be for USAID to be absorbed into an American reconstruction and development bank (ARDB) along the lines of the regional development banks in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and so on, and which is clearly separate from State and the Pentagon.

(The creation of such a entity wouldn't interfere with U.S. membership in the World Bank; the major countries that belong to regional development banks also belong to the World Bank.)

An ARDB would put some distance between the U.S. foreign office and development and procurement issues, and between the military and development/reconstruction issues and procurements related to such.

It would also help to better formalize protocols regarding the use of development projects for counterinsurgency operations. Many such projects, including the PRTs (provincial reconstruction teams), were experimental in Iraq. Now that they have a more permanent role in military operations it's time to clearly define the limits of their use in a war setting, and the way they interface with military kinetic operations.

The creation of an ARDB is just one way that lines of authority and responsibility could be clarified; there are other ways, such as expanding the mission of some existing U.S. agencies, including USAID. The basic idea is to create enough of a buffer between State and the Pentagon that foreign policy considerations don't overwhelm the military institution and its unique function.

However, in the case of Afghanistan even the most efficient buffer would only rearrange the furniture in hell, as long as civilian leaders in NATO countries insist on using their troops to fight a situation that doesn't exist.

There's been much discussion about what the success of POPCOIN depends on. Less attention has been given to the core beliefs that support a long-running insurgency. The most fundamental belief shared by insurgents fighting an occupier is that they know better than the interloper how to help their own county. That belief can be changed by effective POPCOIN outreaches to the insurgents, as the Iraq War demonstrated.

But in the case of Afghanistan large numbers of the vaunted insurgents are Afghans in the pay of Pakistan's military/ISI, which is not interested in building up Afghanistan but in holding it back. So there's a serious problem, which POPCOIN theory is not meant to address, when it comes to the point that such Afghans are crying to outsiders that they don't want to torture and massacre their own countrymen but are being ordered to do so by their Pakistani paymasters. (See Matt Waldman's June 2010 paper, The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan Insurgents.)

Some in Washington argue that the claims of a proxy war being waged by Pakistan are greatly exaggerated by the Afghans, and fueled by their experience after the Russian pull-out, when Pakistani-backed Taliban ran amok in Afghanistan.

From all I've studied of reports on the situation during the past three years, I don't agree that the claims are greatly exaggerated, but for the sake of discussion assume they are. That would mean NATO is dealing with a very traumatized population. Telling such people that a Pakistani proxy war is in their imagination would only to add to their paranoia.

And there is much in the day's news that would reinforce the paranoia, particularly because Afghans no longer need to be literate to be news hounds, thanks to TV and radio stations that sprang up in the country since the NATO occupation. Afghans with access to such media outlets are closely following news about their country, the NATO war effort there, and Pakistan -- and broadcasting to other Afghanss via cell phone.

At the end of this post I feature quotes from two news reports yesterday, which I picked almost at random, to illustrate why Afghans have good reason to believe NATO is more interested in covering for Pakistan than in backing their country. Such reports are so common that finding them on the internet is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Meanwhile diplomats and military officers from NATO countries heap verbal assurances on Afghans that the NATO countries have their best interests at heart. How would you react to such assurances in the face of evidence to the contrary? I know what I'd do. I'd call for a Tabatha takeover of the NATO command in Afghanistan for a week.

I can hear the excuses: 'But Tabatha our militaries are under civilian control. What can we do when we're ordered to fight a phantom insurgency?'

From my study of her salon rescues I think I can get into the ballpark about how she might reply.

She once explained to a gaudily-dressed group of stylists why so many top stylists wear black at work: because it's the client who's supposed to be the center of attention, not the hair dresser.

Good generals know it's not about them, it's about the soldiers who put their lives in their hands. If the generals' civilian bosses knowingly give orders that force them to repeatedly betray their responsibility to troops, their only recourse in a civilian-run democracy is to resign their command. The most they can then hope for is that the resignations will cause the civilian leaders and those who vote them into office to review the bad orders.

The retort is that we can't go to war with Pakistan. Who said anything about making war on Pakistan? As I've pointed out again and again, and as the incident with Dick Cheney and many other incidents and the two reports I quote from below amply illustrate, the first step with Pakistan has never been taken by the US and NATO. The step is to formulate a policy that shows unequivocal disapproval for the Pakistan regime's support of terrorism and then consistently apply the policy so that mixed signals aren't sent to the regime.

And if the civilian leaders in the United States and other NATO countries cannot grasp the benefits of clear policy consistently applied, they really do need to tune into "Tabatha's Salon Takeover" and take notes.

Now to quotes from the two January 25 reports I mentioned above:
Pakistan has "disastrous year" for human rights in 2010: HRW

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) Taliban violence and religious extremism grew in Pakistan in 2010, with the government doing little to improve the situation and often making things worse, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.

In its World Report 2011, the New York-based rights organization said militant violence was fostered by the passive acceptance of persecution of religious minorities and had active help from some elements of the intelligence agencies.

"Taliban atrocities aren't happening in a vacuum," said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia Researcher for Human Rights Watch, "but instead with covert support from elements in the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies."
[...]
The second report:
White House, NATO Hold Up Afghan Force Size Increase
By Viola Gienger

(Bloomberg, January 25) The White House and NATO are holding up a decision on increasing the size of Afghan security forces because of their concerns over the cost and possible objections from Pakistan, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said.

Levin said he urged President Barack Obama at a White House event yesterday to approve an increase in the goal for the number of Afghan soldiers and police officers to 378,000, beyond the current plan to field 305,000 by October. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Army General David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, have all recommended the increase, Levin said.

“I urged the president strongly and with very direct words that this needed to be done,” Levin told reporters at the Capitol in Washington today after returning from a week-long trip to Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. The decision is necessary “to enhance the possibilities of success of our mission and to speed up the reduction of our forces,” he said.

The coalition fighting in Afghanistan, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, aims to turn back the Taliban and build an Afghan army and police force to take over from the foreign troops. Obama plans to begin a U.S. drawdown in July, and officials have said that training is on schedule to meet the current goal of 305,000 Afghan forces in the field by October.

The Pakistan Factor

In addition to the concerns over cost, the U.S. may be considering objections from Pakistan to having so many Afghan troops across the border, Levin said. Such an objection would be “interesting,” considering that Pakistan has often blamed Afghanistan for not controlling the flow of fighters over its border.

“They can’t have it both ways,” Levin said. “If they want the Afghans to take greater responsibility on their side of the border to stop the flow, then they should not object to the Afghan security forces being enlarged.”

Pakistan wants to help Afghanistan achieve “stability and lasting peace,” said Imran Gardezi, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.

“It is the sovereign right of the government and people of Afghanistan to determine the size of their national army and police,” Gardezi said in an e-mail today.

“Pakistan has offered its cooperation in training Afghan national army and police personnel.”

Considering Many Factors

The White House is considering many factors in determining the ultimate strength of the Afghan force, including costs and quality as well as quantity, an administration official said on condition of anonymity because the decision-making process isn’t public.

Navy Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, and Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, both declined to comment.

“There is ongoing discussion, but no decisions have been made,” said Marine Corps Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.
[...]
Translation of the sound of chirping crickets emanating from the offices of Rasmussen and Mullen: They didn't expect Carl Levin to announce to the public that they were considering complaints from Pakistan's military that Afghan military and police forces were getting too big.

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Tuesday, January 25

Amrullah Saleh on 2008 Indian embassy bombing in Kabul and ISI complicity; Pundita on Washington's failure to grasp the meaning of policy


CIA officers who know Amrullah Saleh have described him as "brilliant" but Saleh has always been reluctant to say much on the record until his attendance at an anti-terrorism conference in Washington late last year -- and even then he didn't go into detail about his oft-repeated charge that Pakistan's ISI is complicit in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and India.

Now, FRONTLINE has aired an interview with Saleh conducted by veteran reporter and FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith. ("The Spy Who Quit," aired January 17, 2011 on PBS). They expanded their discussion off camera, which FRONTLINE published in transcript form.

Smith has been in contact with Saleh for four years and is knowledable about the issues raised in the interview. The expanded portion of the discussion fills in several gaps in the Afghan war record, from the pre-9/11 days to the present, addresses Saleh's career in intelligence work and his relationship with Hamid Karzai, and his views on al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and the war in terror in general.

But it's the part of the discussion about the ISI and specifically Saleh's charge that the ISI orchestrated the bombings of the Indian embassy in Kabul (in 2008 and 2009) that's the stunner because of the details Saleh provides for the first time about his claim of ISI involvement in the 2008 bombing. Below I feature excerpts from the transcript that address the bombing, but first I'd like to make two points:

Although Saleh was fêted in many quarters during his trip to Washington in December 2010 I find that there's a subtle bias against him within certain Washington factions - namely ones that recoil from his hawkishness toward Pakistan, or still cling to the notion that Pakistan should have a large say in Afghanistan's affairs, or which fear that he's too friendly with Russia or will become so if he gains political power.

Often the bias takes the form of faintly praising him while pointing out that as a Tajik he can't be accepted by Afghanistan's Pashtuns. This line is invariably accompanied by the claim that Pashtuns are the majority population in Afghanistan.

The Pashtuns are the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan but they make up only 40 percent of the country's population, and Amrullah Saleh's ethnic heritage is actually Tajik-Pashtun, as a reader at RFERL's Gandhara blog notes in response to Christian Caryl's speculations about Saleh's chances of becoming Afghanistan's next president.

Secondly, while Saleh speaks with frankness during the interview he avoids stating the obvious, which is that Afghanistan's 'Pakistan problem' is a U.S. problem spelled backward. The problem is that Washington can't make up its mind from one day to the next about how it deals with Pakistan.

It's because of Washington's incoherence that I don't agree with Amrullah Saleh's recommendation that the U.S./NATO "bomb" Pakistan, nor do I support the drone strikes. Or rather I think such actions put the cart before the horse.

Washington and its most powerful NATO partners should first change their tune toward Pakistan and make the tune consistent, then see if Pakistan's military/ISI continue to support terrorism in Afghanistan. Then take it to the next level if they don't abandon the support.

But it's only recently that Washington has demonstrated real opposition to the Pakistani military's support of terror sponsoring groups -- and even then the demonstration is part of a passive-aggressive approach that sends conflicting signals to Pakistan's military and civilian leaders.

Let me show you something:

October 8, 2009
US leaders say no intention to interfere in Pakistan's affairs

[...] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States has no intention of interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs through the [civilian] aid programme, as some critics have suggested. "Those who have questions or doubts should read the legislation, which is very clear in its intent. [...]
January 8, 2011
Islamabad - The US has the right to interfere in Pakistan’s economic and governance affairs as Washington provides funds to it, the American envoy here has asserted. US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the US was the largest aid giver to Pakistan and, therefore, it has the right to interfere in economic and governance affairs, Geo News reported Saturday.[...]
[flipping her pen in the air] Who acts like this? Only crazy people can afford the luxury of changing their minds whenever it suits them. A policy, particularly one that's written into legislation, means an assurance that's consistently applied. Policies can change but if 'change' is the operative term, one is no longer making policy.

With that off my chest I'll turn the floor over to Martin Smith and Amrullah Saleh; Smith's comments are shown in boldface:
[...]
Were you in Kabul on the day that the Indian Embassy was bombed [in 2008]?

Yes.

You got the news and then you began to gather evidence.

Yes. The evidence directly linked the bombing to [the Pakistani Islamist group] Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI.

Specifically what?

Very specific, because we got the guy who prepared the car; we got the guy who planned together with ISI in Pakistan. And we had sufficient evidence that it was ISI's plan, because prior to the bombing, I had passed many other assets they had if they could do it. So we knew they were trying to do something against the Indian Embassy.

But what was the evidence that you had?

We had the remaining members of the network arrested.

And they told you --

That they were working for Lashkar-e-Taiba.

But what was the evidence linking those Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives to the ISI?

Lashkar-e-Taiba is an ISI child, A. B, prior to the bombing, we had detected ISI surveillance of the Indian Embassy through proxy, meaning they would train people in surveillance and casing and task them to go after the Indian targets in Afghanistan and bring back information. So we knew ISI were planning to do something against the Indian Embassy.

What was the evidence that linked those proxies to the ISI?

Because it's very direct and it's very simple. Indian Embassy in Kabul is not a target for Al Qaeda. India is not doing anything against Al Qaeda, one. That's circumstantial evidence.

But hard evidence means we get the guy. He tells us about his safe house in a Pakistani city. He gives us telephone numbers. He gives us the name of this mysterious clean-shaven person who came and gave them the equipment, showed them the map and gave them the training and the money, which clearly shows ISI's hand. And we go to the ISI, and we say, "Brother, this is the location where the bombing was found."

Months later they come by and say, "Yes, we did go to the location; the house was empty." Sure, if the house was empty, you could see the register. Who are running it? Very frustrating. Very frustrating. Yeah, they were involved. They were involved. ...

And when did you present your evidence to your U.S. counterparts in the CIA?

As far as investigations were concerned, I don't know now. It was shoulder to shoulder it worked. ... On this particular incident there was nothing that we were withholding from CIA. They knew everything we were doing in the investigation, everything.

So they concluded that as well as you did that this was an ISI-sponsored operation.

We were not telling the CIA to share with us their conclusion. We were empowering them with evidence. And we were assuming that overwhelming evidence will allow them to have good judgment. ...

What was [the Haqqani network's] role in that attack?

They have facilitated, because the bombers had come to Logar with the help of Haqqani facilitators into Kabul. But it was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operation.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is a --

Is a Pakistani extremist outfit, Punjabi. It's not tribal areas. Initially created to do operations in India. They are the ones who did the Mumbai attack.

You have numerous incidents, operations that you've investigated. But can you recount for us now ... perhaps something you haven't talked about before that makes very crystal clear the involvement of the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, in Taliban operations inside Afghanistan?

... There is an individual called Tajmir. Tajmir, during the Taliban, was chief of their intelligence for Jalalabad. By virtue of his job he was very close to Al Qaeda, and he was trained by ISI. He's an ISI graduate, and he hails from Paktia province. Very professional in training, he uses about 70 aliases and fake names. But we know it's Tajmir.

He is directing operations from Tal, from Waziristan, from tribal areas. And more than a dozen times after we found out this particular operation was carried out with blessings of Tajmir, we told ISI: "This guy is not hiding in mountains. He is either in Peshawar, or he is in a specific building with this telephone number." They never arrested Tajmir because Tajmir is their man. CIA knows about this. The U.S. military knows about it. The FBI knows about it. And Tajmir is like chief of operations of Al Qaeda assisted by ISI. And he's responsible for more than half of the deadly, the spectacular attacks that have happened since 2004 in Kabul.

You just said that he was chief of operations for Al Qaeda or for the Taliban?

Both. For that particular region of Afghanistan.

He was trained by the ISI?

Yes, he was trained.

What convinces you that he is currently being run by the ISI?

Because he's not hiding in the mountains. He is living in a flat in town. And more than a dozen times we have passed his location and phoned to the ISI. The ISI have come back to me and said: "You were right. A cell who did that operation in Kabul or this operation in Kabul, you are right, they were in contact with their masters in Tal." But they never arrested anybody.

You've called the ISI?

Yes.

Who do you talk to?

I used to talk to [Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani, [former ISI chief] Nadim Taj and [ISI chief] Gen. [Ahmed Shuja] Pasha.

And when you talked to Kayani or Pasha, you mentioned this Tajmir?

Yes.

And they said?

They would say, "We will look into it."

Did they deny that he worked for the ISI?

Of course.

So they're denying it? And you're saying that your proof that he works for the ISI is that they don't arrest him?

He's not an ISI officer, but without ISI's protection, he cannot live where he is living. When he does an operation, he then moves to Peshawar, [where] he has a shop. ... And ISI knows about it.

Well, there's a difference, though, between hands-off policy by the ISI toward operatives and actually running them.

I am afraid the United States is becoming again so legalistic like before 9/11, and that will hurt you.

But you're an intelligence man. There is a difference, would you not admit, between a hands-off policy and actual employment and running him as an agent? Are we talking here about the refusal of the ISI to cooperate with you in going after people, or are we talking about active ISI-led operations?

ISI has created a space for Al Qaeda, Haqqani and Taliban to launch operations. Without their protection, without them tolerating the presence of these operatives to do planning, training and using Pakistani soil they won't be able to do these operations. So ISI knows they are doing it, and ISI is happy they are doing it, because through them, Pakistan promotes her policy in Afghanistan, and the policy is, "Taliban are ours, and they are to dominate Afghanistan."

And we're going to help those who help them by protecting them? By not arresting them?

Sure.

Have you ever arrested somebody engaged in a Taliban operation who was carrying papers that identified them as having communications with the ISI?

Too many.

Can you give me an example of that?

For example, there is a guy called Sayed Akbar. He's an active ISI officer, and he was embedded with Taliban in Kunar. We arrested him, and he's in jail.

Give me another example.

Another example -- my colleagues and the police arrested another ISI man fighting, embedded with Taliban in Farah.

How did they know he was an ISI man?

He's saying he's an ISI man. He gives his regiment and his office, everything.

Can you give me another example?

I wouldn't because we have an expression: When you buy apples, you just look at one, and don't necessarily look at each and every apple you buy. So what is the point going over and over this? Americans know ISI is hurting them.

The Pakistanis deny it.

Sure. It suits them.

They say: "We're being hurt and attacked by the Taliban. Why should we be helping them?"

I would say they are being hurt by anti-Pakistani elements or miscreants, but not the Taliban.

In the summer of 2008, the drone campaign in FATA [Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas] accelerates. What kind of conversations did you have with the CIA, with your U.S. counterparts and the military about this operation and what were your feelings were about it?
[...]
I'll break off here, but there is much more of import in the interview.

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Monday, January 24

First stop Pakistan military's modus operandi in Afghanistan, then talk to me about defining U.S. success in Afghanistan


The following are comments I entered at SWJ (Small Wars Journal) blog after a reader sent a link to a post there titled Defining Success in Afghanistan and which featured a video of the same title of a panel discussion at American Enterprise Institute. The reader thought that the discussion was worthwhile to note even if one didn't agree with all the opinions expressed by the panelists.

Some of the sources I mentioned in my comments at SWJ would be old news to Pundita readers but this is a good time for a review. I was also struck by a few of the facts cited in the SWJ comments, which I felt were important enough to require clarification or correction. Here I'm not going to name the commenters I addressed at SWJ because that would be unfair; their remarks need to be read in the full context. I'm also going to put the first comment I entered at SWJ last in this post, because it's excerpts from a somewhat lengthy summary of documents that were declassified in 2007. With that introduction out of the way:

I think it's a moot question as to whether the U.S. should stay on in Afghanistan and do nation building. The U.S. military bases being built in Afghanistan -- three at last count, and which are to be reserved for U.S. use -- are just one sign that the Pentagon is planning on being in the country a long time, whether or not there will be extensive drawdowns of combat troops.

I also think it's playing ostrich at this point to argue the questions of whether the U.S. can achieve victory in Afghanistan and what victory might look like. That's because it's obvious by now that until the Pakistan military's modus operandi in Afghanistan is halted NATO is trying to empty the ocean with a sieve and making it impossible for Afghan self-governance.

Just to review: the MO is to use proxies to assassinate or intimidate every Afghan they can manage to neutralize who shows intelligence and skill as an administrator, and who's not corrupt.

That's the same MO the Pakistani military used in East Pakistan and in Kashmir. It's the same MO they used in Baluchistan. It's the same MO they used in Afghanistan after the Russian pullout.

In fact it's the same MO they use against their 'own' people in the Punjab and Sindh who would seriously challenge the power of the country's largest landholders.

So I don't want to hear at this point about paths to victory in Afghanistan and nation building. First replace a sieve with a bucket.

One reason I scared up a summary of those declassified documents [see below] is that their release marked a turning point, in that the U.S. government could no longer practice denial and deception regarding the extent of the involvement of the Pakistan military/ISI with the Taliban.

This has meant that since the release of those documents U.S. officials have had to substitute for denial verbal handsprings; e.g., 'We still believe it's only rogue elements in the ISI,' 'They're improving,' and creative excuses; e.g., 'Remember we need to transport NATO supplies through Pakistan,' but the smoke blowing hasn't fooled any informed observer.

And such excuses won't fool U.S. military servicepeople once they leave Afghanistan and settle into civilian life -- the ones who will steel themselves to dig into the details of the U.S. government's actions toward Pakistan. They may know the big picture [about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship] while in theater but the devil is in the details.

Yet if the U.S. military command sees the lengthening shadow stalking it, it hasn't given a sign of this under Gates's leadership and Mullen's.

Virtual suicide missions, FUBAR orders, and friendly fire are all part of the fabric of war. But I believe that U.S. tolerance for the Pakistan military's use of proxies to murder U.S. troops represents the first time in history that taxpayers are in effect funding the killing and maiming of their own country's finest citizens in order to placate a vaunted ally.

How does the U.S. military high command think that thousands of ex-servicepeople are going to react when they learn in detail of such an atrocity?

So I would be a little less concerned at this point about defining success in Afghanistan and a lot more concerned with halting a betrayal of horrific proportions.

Now to reply to some specific comments:

Regarding the statement, "I understand that role of the Saudi/Pakistan support to the Taliban; however, they didn't support the Taliban when is was Mullah Omar and 5 other guys. [...]"

From yesterday's Guardian report on former ISI spymaster and vaunted "godfather" of the Taliban, Sultan Amir Tarar:
[...] He ran a network of CIA-funded training camps in the tribal belt and Balochistan, which funnelled tens of thousands of mujahideen guerrillas into battle against the Soviets.
[...]
Among his students was a young Afghan cleric named Muhammad Omar ["Mullah Omar"], who emerged as head of the Afghan Taliban and seized power in Kabul in 1996. Tarar played a key role in that movement too.

Operating under diplomatic cover, Tarar was the ISI's point-man with the Taliban, nurturing a relationship in which Pakistan offered arms, advice and finance.

He developed a close personal relationship with Omar and, according to some reports, advised him as US forces attacked Afghanistan in late 2001.
[...]
It was never "Mullah Omar and 5 guys." It was always Pakistan's high military command working in close cooperation with the U.S. command through the ISI front and with financial help and advice from the U.S. and Saudi military and intelligence services.

That's the truth. It is the still the truth, even though Omar and his crew filled a law-and-order vacuum in Afghanistan and thus were tolerated and even welcomed by many Afghans until they recoiled from the Taliban's methods and Saudi-inspired Wahhabist doctrine.

As to the extent to which the U.S. government directly contributed to the indoctrination techniques Tarar used to radicalize Afghan refugees, see the March 2002 Washington Post report, The ABC's of Jihad:
In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.
[...]
Many of those textbooks were used in the madrassas that were set up in refugee camps in Pakistan for Afghan refugees. And just to be clear, those camps were not exclusively reserved for Pashtuns. Afghans from all clans and ethnic backgrounds were given refuge in Pakistan once the Russian military entered Afghanistan.

Regarding the statement, "It was the lack of quality education in the Pashtun regions of Pakistan that provided the demand for the Wahabbism madrassas," that is not entirely correct from my reading of Ahmed Rashid's authoritative history of the Taliban. See pp. 89-90 of his 2001 book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.

In brief, Rashid recounted that the aim of both the JUI and Zia's military regime in setting up madrassas was to indoctrinate and train Afghan Pashtuns to govern in Afghanistan. Later, as the Pakistani public education system collapsed (or to be more precise, was allowed to collapse), Zia vastly increased the number of madrassas. And yes, those schools became the only source of formal education for many of the poorest Pakistanis, and not just the Pashtuns.

What the passages in the book do not address is why Zia allowed the education system to collapse, despite massive infusions of aid from the West to prop it up. And when I say massive, I mean uncounted USD billions -- so many billions that no one in the 'international community' wants to tot up exactly how many.

This comment section is not the place to explore where successive Pakistani regimes diverted the education aid money to, and why Zia didn't want the country's masses to receive quality public education. But I will say here that it's uniformed to assume that a better education system is the key to turning Pakistanis away from radicalism.

And before I leave the subject of education: it shouldn't be assumed that the madrassas are the sole educational sources of radicalization in Pakistan. Indeed, a Frontline documentary aired a year or so ago featured Pakistani educators pointing out that the greatest radicalizing influence was Pakistan's public schools -- and that in comparison many madrassas were bastions of liberalism.

Thus, only the fact that many Pakistani families can't spare their children for school attendance has prevented an even greater level of radicalization than is seen in today's Pakistan.
Washington D.C., August 14, 2007 - A collection of newly-declassified documents published today detail U.S. concern over Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban during the seven-year period leading up to 9/11.
[...]
[T]he declassified U.S. documents released today clearly illustrate that the Taliban was directly funded, armed and advised by Islamabad itself.

Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the documents reflect U.S. apprehension about Islamabad's longstanding provision of direct aid and military support to the Taliban, including the use of Pakistani troops to train and fight alongside the Taliban inside Afghanistan. [Doc 17]

The records released today represent the most complete and comprehensive collection of declassified documentation to date on Pakistan's aid programs to the Taliban, illustrating Islamabad's firm commitment to a Taliban victory in Afghanistan. [Doc 34].

These new documents also support and inform the findings of a recently-released CIA intelligence estimate characterizing Pakistan's tribal areas as a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists, and provide new details about the close relationship between Islamabad and the Taliban in the years prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Declassified State Department cables and U.S. intelligence reports describe the use of Taliban terrorist training areas in Afghanistan by Pakistani-supported militants in Kashmir, as well as Pakistan's covert effort to supply Pashtun troops from its tribal regions to the Taliban cause in Afghanistan-effectively forging and reinforcing Pashtun bonds across the border and consolidating the Taliban's severe form of Islam throughout Pakistan's frontier region.

Also published today are documents linking Harakat ul-Ansar, a militant Kashmiri group funded directly by the government of Pakistan, [Doc 10] to terrorist training camps shared by Osama bin Laden in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. [Doc 16]

Of particular concern was the potential for Islamabad-Taliban links to strengthen Taliban influence in Pakistan's tribal regions along the border. A January 1997 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan observed that "for Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan," adding that worries that the "Taliban brand of Islam…might infect Pakistan," was "apparently a problem for another day." [Doc 20]
[...]
Islamabad denies that it ever provided military support to the Taliban, but the newly-released documents report that in the weeks following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996, Pakistan's intelligence agency was "supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel, and food." Pakistan's Interservice Intelligence Directorate was "using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces." [Doc 15]

Other documents also conclude that there has been an extensive and consistent history of "both military and financial assistance to the Taliban." [Doc 8]
[...]
Highlights

> August 1996: Pakistan Intelligence (ISID) "provides at least $30,000 - and possibly as much as $60,000 - per month" to the militant Kashmiri group Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA). Despite this aid, the group is reaching out to sponsors of international terrorism including Osama bin Laden for additional support, and may in the near future become a threat to Islamabad itself as well as U.S. interests. HUA contacts have hinted they "might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners." [Doc 10]

> October 1996: A Canadian intelligence document released by the National Security Agency and originally classified Top Secret SI, Umbra comments on recent Taliban military successes noting that even Pakistan "must harbour some concern" regarding the Taliban's impressive capture of Kabul, as such victory may diminish Pakistan's influence over the movement and produce a Taliban regime in Kabul with strong links to Pakistan's own Pashtuns. [Doc 14]

> October 1996: Although food supplies from Pakistan to the Taliban are conducted openly through Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISID, "the munitions convoys depart Pakistan late in the evening hours and are concealed to reveal their true contents." [Doc 15]

> November 1996: Pakistan's Pashtun-based "Frontier Corps elements are utilized in command and control; training; and when necessary - combat" alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. [Doc 17]

> March 1998: Al-Qaeda and Pakistan government-funded Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA) have been sharing terrorist training camps in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for years [Link Doc 16], and HUA has increasingly been moving ideologically closer to al-Qaeda. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is growing increasingly concerned as Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a leader in Pakistan's Harakat ul-Ansar has signed Osama bin Laden's most recent fatwa promoting terrorist activities against U.S. interests. [Doc 26]

> September 1998 [Doc 31] and March 1999 [Doc 33]: The U.S. Department of State voices concern that Pakistan is not doing all it can to pressure the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden. "Pakistan has not been responsive to our requests that it use its full influence on the Taliban surrender of Bin Ladin." [Doc 33]

> September 2000: A cable cited in The 9/11 Commission Report notes that Pakistan's aid to the Taliban has reached "unprecedented" levels, including recent reports that Islamabad has possibly allowed the Taliban to use territory in Pakistan for military operations. Furthermore the U.S. has "seen reports that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance and military advisors." [Doc 34]"
For the entire summary and links to all the documents cited, see this page at the GW University archives website.

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Wednesday, January 19

Pundita falls in love with a Pakistani attorney. I hope his goats and cousins don't mind. (UPDATED 2:00 PM)

UPDATE
Crikey! The guy has a fan club. Received the following from a reader whose opinion I respect. Glad to see from his note that my snap judgment in this case was sound. And it seems the blogger in question is a male whose name, or at least pen name, might actually be Major:
"Falling in love" isn't just a manner of speaking when it comes to the Major. It's funny how disproportionately many mash notes he gets from both boys & girls in his blog posts. For desis [South Asians] his pitch-perfect sendup of our accents and locution is an added treat. Personally, I hate the fellow's guts, since he writes the way I can only fantasize about. :-)

The lad's a genius, and that's all there's to it.
*************

I might regret this, but on the strength of only two of his essays (Strapping the suicide vest on the Kashmir issue and Birth of a Liberal Pakistan!! (approximately after 70 years of screwing) I'm placing an anonymous Pakistani's blog on the Pundita blogroll. I hope he'll use the sudden fame wisely. (In what may be a sign of lurking gender bias this female blogger assumes the blogger is male.)

Thanks to the same reader who sent a link to Margaret Bourke-White's report on Pakistan (see today's earlier post) for alerting me to the blog, which is titled Major Bearls Oph Wisdom: Goat droppings oph Wisdom.

All I've gleaned about the blog's author is that he seems to be a Pakistani attorney who lives in Pakistan. An anonymous blogger myself, I'm not irritated by his blog's completely uninformative "About" section:
Some post are by me, and some posts are the commentaries of my fourth cousin thrice remove (twice by ISI and once by CIA). ...
Don't let the botched English fool you; this is a brilliant and well-informed thinker, an intellectually honest one as a commenter notes, with an excellent command of English.

Any fool can be well informed and brilliant, although I'll grant that intellectual honesty is harder to come by; what sets Pearls apart is the author's stealth sense of humor, which he uses to laugh to absurd arguments to death.

I'm on the fence about trying to entice you to read Pearls by providing quotes from the author's essays. I don't want to spoil your fun (although I'd advise Americans to read Birth of a Liberal Pakistan first). And I don't want to scare off American opinion experts on Pakistan, who find themselves at sea with arguments that are shorn of political and strategic agendas.

The only agenda I can see about the blog is that the author is trying to bring Pakistan's intellectuals to their senses. I add that the author's agenda could work wonders for the Pentagon, U.S. Department of State, Congress and White House, but I've concluded that Washington has no interest in being sensible about Pakistan. The same observation goes double for the other powerful members of NATO.

On a personal note, reading the Pearls essays was therapeutic for me. I've been accused of having a good sense of humor but there's nothing like realizing that one's government is paying another to bump off soldiers in one's military to turn humor into corrosive bitterness. At least that's been my experience.

Reading Pearls sharply reminded me that I'm not the only person taking full account of evil and stupidity run riot, and that I need to find ways to get across my points other than sputtering to my fellow Americans that we're all going straight to hell.

That I need to find other ways doesn't mean I will; the New Year has done little to lift my dark mood. But Pearls has struck a match in the darkness.

Okay; here are a few lines from Birth of a Liberal Pakistan !! in which the author skewers laments by Pakistan's self-proclaimed liberals that Salmaan Taseer's killing represented the death of liberalism in Pakistan. He drives home his argument by pointing out that Pakistan's liberals have never had much to say about Pakistan's bonded laborers:
[...] Salman’s taseer assassination, wimmens and gentlemards, heralds the arrival of an egalitarian Pakistan!

“But Why!” you pooch?

Here is why. Liberalism, wimmens and gentlemards, is a belief in social justice rooted in individual liberty and equal rights. So how did social justice and equal rights prevalent before Salman Taseer’s assassination die on that day? Actually it didnt. Before going back to the begining, for dramatic effect let me start with the end. The day Salman taseer got assasinated, the elite suddenly realized that they cannot do what they wished, such as down a few or have their way with the blasphemy law, without the danger of their incensed security guard or domestic help firing off a clip in their direction. This, I suspect, the aforementioned muddle headed donkey has mistaken for the death of “liberalism”. What has instead died, I humbly submit, is the power over the common man which was usurped and weilded for so long by the the elites.

And that is because power has been democratized. And that is because everyone has a gun. Ergo, the power to shape the future and destiny of Pakistan, which used to lie with the elites is suddenly with the masses. Because every one of them has a gun, and unlike the elites, they seem quite comfortable firing it to protect their beliefs.

A round of applause for AK-facilitated egalitarianism!!

So what of this elusive little-understood animal (like the Yeti and “Silent Majority” of Pakistan) called Liberalism? More importantly what is and why Liberalism? Liberalism wimmens and gentlemards, among other things, is to ensure social mobility and equal participation in governance. And social mobility in yesteryears depended on access to capital producing goods. Like Land. Ergo, if Liberalism had existed before Salman Taseer’s assasination, Land reforms would have been implmented. Pray tell me how did that go? As you would have guessed:

Fantastically!! We had the Provincial Tenancy Act of 1950!!

Since yours sachly fancies himself as a story teller more than a lawyer (and is allergic to the word “WHEREAS” in all caps that every legal document seems to have) instead of describing the law, let me tell you a story. There are 1.7 million landless agricultural workers in Pakistan and in January 2002 The honorable High court of Sindh dismissed petitions for the release of bonded laborers citing this very same act and declaring bonded laborers to be a “dispute” between Landlords and peasants. Covered by the Tenancy act. So much for equal rights and social mobility based on capital producing goods. So, did the “liberalism” enabled by tenancy act die with Salman Taseer’s assassination?

No!

Did the egalitarianism of the threat of a few peasants banding together, declaring their landlord to be a blasphemer and shooting him in the head become a real possibility after Salman Taseer’s assasination?

Emphatic yes!!

So wimmens and gentlemards, I submit that egalitarianism has taken birth!!

Let us take the second aspect of social mobility. Education. The less said about this, the better.
[...]

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"The Quaid-i-Azam has a bad cold:" Margaret Bourke-White's piercingly accurate report on 1947 Pakistan and its lessons for today.

Best friends forever, before they stopped being friends


Many thanks to the reader who sent a link to excerpts from Margaret Bourke-White's 1949 book, Halfway to Freedom, and which I republish in this post. The book was based on dispatches Bourke-White filed for LIFE magazine on post-Independence India and Pakistan. The excerpts deal with the earliest days of Pakistan and the last days of its founding father (pictured above with Mohandas K. Gandhi), Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the Quaid-i-Azam ("great leader").

Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1964) was the first female war correspondent and the first female journalist to report from combat zones in World War Two. Her legacy has been so greatly colored by her photojournalism -- her photographs of the war, American industry, the Depression era, and the horrors of Buchenwald concentration camp and India's partition -- that it can be hard to remember she was also a great reporter.

She was also an extraordinarily lucky person, who often found herself at the right place at the right time to report on events that would be of historical importance. She interviewed Gandhi just a few hours before his assassination, and learned of Jinnah's mental state shortly before his own death simply because she'd been waiting around his official residence to make a photographic portrait of him for a LIFE cover. Yet she always shored her luck with careful observations. It is downright eerie to read her reporting about 1947 Pakistan and its founding father in light of today's Pakistan.

The excerpts from her book will also educate readers who've bought the fiction that Pakistan's religious extremism is rooted in the 1980s policies of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. Pakistan was born in religious extremism that was nurtured and exploited by Jinnah and the ruling families he served. Zia simply painted a Saudi face on the extremism.

Bourke-White couldn't see around history's corners, however. By the time Halfway to Freedom was published Pakistan's leaders had already been granted the wish they'd expressed to her to receive support from the U.S. government.

Jinnah and the other Indian Muslims who wanted a separate state couldn't see around corners, either -- a point I made in The Ghost. Bourke-White's reportage makes clear just how short-sighted the decision was to break with India. It's all very well and good to ask, What were they thinking? But in 1936, when Jinnah revived the Muslim League, no one could imagine the collapse of the British Empire, the seeming suddenness of the collapse and how imminent it was. At the time all the problems that an imagined Islamic nation would face were to be smoothed over by the might of the British Empire.

By the time Margaret Bourke-White took her last photographs of Pakistan's founder it was clear that he'd staked the lives of many millions of people on an illusion. But that was seen only with hindsight, in the harsh dawn of the post-World War Two era.

The excerpts from Halfway to Freedom are provided by the Indian Relief and Education Fund website along with their introduction:
The Messiah and The Promised Land

Margaret Bourke-White was a correspondent and photographer for LIFE magazine during the WW II years. In September 1947, White went to Pakistan. She met Jinnah and wrote about what she found and heard in her book "Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India," Simon and Schuster, New York, 1949. The following are the excerpts:

Pakistan was one month old. Karachi was its mushrooming capital. On the sandy fringes of the city an enormous tent colony had grown up to house the influx of minor government officials. There was only one major government official, Mahomed Ali Jinnah, and there was no need for Jinnah to take to a tent. The huge marble and sandstone Government House, vacated by British officialdom, was waiting. The Quaid-i-Azam ["Great Leader"] moved in, with his sister, Fatima, as hostess.

Mr. Jinnah had put on what his critics called his "triple crown": he had made himself Governor-General; he was retaining the presidency of the Muslim League -- now Pakistan's only political party; and he was president of the country's lawmaking body, the Constituent Assembly.

"We never expected to get it so soon," Miss Fatima said when I called. "We never expected to get it in our lifetimes."

If Fatima's reaction was a glow of family pride, her brother's was a fever of ecstasy. Jinnah's deep-sunk eyes were pinpoints of excitement. His whole manner indicated that an almost overwhelming exaltation was racing through his veins. I had murmured some words of congratulation on his achievement in creating the world's largest Islamic nation.

"Oh, it's not just the largest Islamic nation. Pakistan is the fifth-largest nation in the world!"

The note of personal triumph was so unmistakable that I wondered how much thought he gave to the human cost: more Muslim lives had been sacrificed to create the new Muslim homeland than America, for example, had lost during the entire second World War. I hoped he had a constructive plan for the seventy million citizens of Pakistan. What kind of constitution did he intend to draw up?

Of course it will be a democratic constitution; Islam is a democratic religion."

I ventured to suggest that the term "democracy" was often loosely used these days. Could he define what he had in mind?

"Democracy is not just a new thing we are learning," said Jinnah. "It is in our blood. We have always had our system of zakat -- our obligation to the poor."

This confusion of democracy with charity troubled me. I begged him to be more specific.

"Our Islamic ideas have been based on democracy and social justice since the thirteenth century."

This mention of the thirteenth century troubled me still more. Pakistan has other relics of the Middle Ages besides "social justice" -- the remnants of a feudal land system, for one. What would the new constitution do about that? ...

"The land belongs to the God," says the Koran.

This would need clarification in the constitution. Presumably Jinnah, the lawyer, would be just the person to correlate the "true Islamic principles" one heard so much about in Pakistan with the new nation's laws. But all he would tell me was that the constitution would be democratic because "the soil is perfectly fertile for democracy."

What plans did he have for the industrial development of the country? Did he hope to enlist technical or financial assistance from America?

"America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America," was Jinnah's reply. "Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed" -- he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles -- "the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves."

He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. "Russia," confided Mr. Jinnah, "is not so very far away."

This had a familiar ring. In Jinnah's mind this brave new nation had no other claim on American friendship than this -- that across a wild tumble of roadless mountain ranges lay the land of the Bolsheviks.

I wondered whether the Quaid-i-Azam considered his new state only as an armored buffer between opposing major powers. He was stressing America's military interest in other parts of the world.

"America is now awakened," he said with a satisfied smile. Since the United States was now bolstering up Greece and Turkey, she should be much more interested in pouring money and arms into Pakistan.

"If Russia walks in here," he concluded, "the whole world is menaced."

In the weeks to come I was to hear the Quaid-i-Azam's thesis echoed by government officials throughout Pakistan.

"Surely America will build up our army," they would say to me. "Surely America will give us loans to keep Russia from walking in."

But when I asked whether there were any signs of Russian infiltration, they would reply almost sadly, as though sorry not to be able to make more of the argument, "No, Russia has shown no signs of being interested in Pakistan."

This hope of tapping the U. S. Treasury was voiced so persistently that one wondered whether the purpose was to bolster the world against Bolshevism or to bolster Pakistan's own uncertain position as a new political entity.

Actually, I think, it was more nearly related to the even more significant bankruptcy of ideas in the new Muslim state -- a nation drawing its spurious warmth from the embers of an antique religious fanaticism, fanned into a new blaze.

Jinnah's most frequently used technique in the struggle for his new nation had been the playing of opponent against opponent. Evidently this technique was now to be extended into foreign policy. ....

No one would have been more astonished than Jinnah if he could have foreseen thirty or forty years earlier that anyone would ever speak of him as a "savior of Islam."

In those days any talk of religion brought a cynical smile. He condemned those who talked in terms of religious rivalries, and in the stirring period when the crusade for freedom began sweeping the country he was hailed as "the embodied symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity."

The gifted Congresswoman, Mrs. Naidu, one of Jinnah's closest friends, wrote poems extolling his role as the great unifier in the fight for independence.

"Perchance it is written in the book of the future," ran one of her tributes, "that he, in some terrible crisis of our national struggle, will pass into immortality" as the hero of "the Indian liberation."

In the "terrible crisis," Mahomed Ali Jinnah was to pass into immortality, not as the ambassador of unity, but as the deliberate apostle of discord. What caused this spectacular renunciation of the concept of a united India, to which he had dedicated the greater part of his life? No one knows exactly.

The immediate occasion for the break, in the mid-thirties, was his opposition to Gandhi's civil disobedience program. Nehru says that Jinnah "disliked the crowds of ill-dressed people who filled the Congress" and was not at home with the new spirit rising among the common people under Gandhi's magnetic leadership.

Others say it was against his legal conscience to accept Gandhi's program. One thing is certain: the break with Gandhi, Nehru, and the other Congress leaders was not caused by any Hindu-Muslim issue.

In any case, Jinnah revived the moribund Muslim League in 1936 after it had dragged through an anemic thirty years' existence, and took to the religious soapbox. He began dinning into the ears of millions of Muslims the claim that they were downtrodden solely because of Hindu domination.

During the years directly preceding this move on his part, an unprecedented degree of unity had developed between Muslims and Hindus in their struggle for independence from the British Raj. The British feared this unity, and used their divide-and-rule tactics to disrupt it. Certain highly-placed Indians also feared unity, dreading a popular movement which would threaten their special position.

Then another decisive factor arose. Although Hindus had always been ahead of Muslims in the industrial sphere, the great Muslim feudal landlords now had aspirations toward industry. From these wealthy Muslims, who resented the well-established Hindu competition, Jinnah drew his powerful supporters.

One wonders whether Jinnah was fighting to free downtrodden Muslims from domination or merely to gain an earmarked area, free from competition, for this small and wealthy clan.

The trend of events in Pakistan would support the theory that Jinnah carried the banner of the Muslim landed aristocracy, rather than that of the Muslim masses he claimed to champion. There was no hint of personal material gain in this. Jinnah was known to be personally incorruptible, a virtue which gave him a great strength with both poor and rich. The drive for personal wealth played no part in his politics. It was a drive for power. ...

Less than three months after Pakistan became a nation, Jinnah's Olympian assurance had strangely withered. His altered condition was not made public.

"The Quaid-i-Azam has a bad cold" was the answer given to inquiries.

Only those closest to him knew that the "cold" was accompanied by paralyzing inability to make even the smallest decisions, by sullen silences striped with outbursts of irritation, by a spiritual numbness concealing something close to panic underneath. I knew it only because I spent most of this trying period at Government House, attempting to take a new portrait of Jinnah for a Life cover.

The Quaid-i-Azam was still revered as a messiah and deliverer by most of his people. But the "Great Leader" himself could not fail to know that all was not well in his new creation, the nation; the nation that his critics referred to as the "House that Jinnah built."

The separation from the main body of India had been in many ways an unrealistic one. Pakistan raised 75 per cent of the world's jute supply; the processing mills were all in India. Pakistan raised one third of the cotton of India, but it had only one thirtieth of the cotton mills. Although it produced the bulk of Indian skins and hides, all the leather tanneries were in South India. The new state had no paper mills, few iron foundries. Rail and road facilities, insufficient at best, were still choked with refugees.

Pakistan has a superbly fertile soil, and its outstanding advantage is self-sufficiency in food, but this was threatened by the never-ending flood of refugees who continued pouring in long after the peak of the religious wars had passed.

With his burning devotion to his separate Islamic nation, Jinnah had taken all these formidable obstacles in his stride. But the blow that finally broke his spirit struck at the very name of Pakistan. While the literal meaning of the name is "Land of the Pure," the word is a compound of initial letters of the Muslim majority provinces which Jinnah had expected to incorporate: P for the Punjab, A for the Afghans' area on the Northwest Frontier, S for Sind, -tan for Baluchistan. But the K was missing.

Kashmir, India's largest princely state, despite its 77 per cent Muslim population, had not fallen into the arms of Pakistan by the sheer weight of religious majority. Kashmir had acceded to India, and although it was now the scene of an undeclared war between the two nations, the fitting of the K into Pakistan was left in doubt. With the beginning of this torturing anxiety over Kashmir, the Quaid-i-Azam's siege of bad colds began, and then his dismaying withdrawal into himself. ....

Later, reflecting on what I had seen, I decided that this desperation was due to causes far deeper than anxiety over Pakistan's territorial and economic difficulties. I think that the tortured appearance of Mr. Jinnah was an indication that, in these final months of his life, he was adding up his own balance sheet.

Analytical, brilliant, and no bigot, he knew what he had done. Like Doctor Faustus, he had made a bargain from which he could never be free. During the heat of the struggle he had been willing to call on all the devilish forces of superstition, and now that his new nation had been achieved the bigots were in the position of authority. The leaders of orthodoxy and a few "old families" had the final word and to perpetuate their power, were seeing to it that the people were held in the deadening grip of religious superstition.

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Friday, January 14

Lord of the Flies, American version


This has been a troubling week in the United States, at least I found it troubling -- not only the massacre of innocents in Tucson by a man whose derangement fit in so well with American 'alternative lifestyles' that apparently only the U.S. military found his behavior sufficiently alarming to reject him out of hand, but also the political grandstanding in reaction to the killer's rampage, topped by a memorial service in Tucson for his fallen victims that had the earmarks of a football-game pep rally.

The grandstanding and bizarre memorial ocurred before relatives of the fallen were even able to bury their dead.

I've heard it argued that inappropriate behavior at the memorial -- shouts, cheers, whistles, frequent outbursts of applause -- was not meant to disrespect the dead and that it arose because the participants were giving way to their feelings and blowing off steam in the face of tragedy.

But giving way to one's feelings has become the guiding principle in American society. How did this come about?

Today's USA reflects more than sixty years of research to determine the optimum methods for parenting and schooling. If parents and school administrators had stuck with implementing just one research fad the harm might have been less, on the theory that down through history countless children have survived wacky parenting and schooling traditions and gone on to become responsible adults.

But these weren't traditions being implemented, these were research conclusions. Whatever is concluded in research can be overturned by another conclusion. And so each round of research produced in serial fashion parenting and educational methods that could completely contradict earlier ones.

Dovetailing with the deification of scientific research was the rise of a political movement that tacitly defined conscience as 'outrage about the plight of the underprivileged' and good character as 'fighting for the rights of the underprivileged.' Left to their own devices to fill in the blanks left by such definitions, Americans raised on research conclusions of the moment settled on their feelings as the reliable guide for appropriate behavior.

The only other norm for appropriate social behavior in the USA has been supplied by the corporate environment.

The upshot has been a society of adults who bear a frighteningly close psychological resemblance to the marooned children in Lord of the Flies when their attempt at self-government descended into savagery.

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Monday, January 10

In Memoriam

For the victims of the shootings in Tucson
With prayers for the full recovery of the wounded



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Thursday, January 6

The ghost


The problem for Obama, Mullen, Gates, Clinton, Petraeus and all their advisors is that they cannot comprehend what life was like for Pakistan's ruling families during the British Raj. There's no use trying to explain what it was like because they will interrupt and say, 'I know.' They know nothing and understand even less. They have their heads stuffed with postcolonial theories thought up by leftists such as Edward Said and guilt-ridden Britons.

But if you saw James Cameron's Titanic and recall the scene in the flooded grand ballroom with drowned passengers in elegant evening attire, you might intuit a little of what it was like for those families. It was all swept away after World War Two, a way of life Pakistan's ruling families thought would never end.

Westerners must accept that they can't fully understand what was lost. It might surprise you to learn that the Indians can't fully understand, either. That's because Indians can't imagine how it feels to realize one has traded everything of lasting value for a mirage.

The true Pakistan is a ghost, a ghost of the British Empire at its most glorious.

Westerners can understand, I think, what the most informed Indians already know: that without the help of the ruling families who supported the British enterprise in India the British couldn't have lasted there as long as they did. The ruling families were the British Raj. So it was a symbiotic relationship, not a parent-child one, a relationship that created a lifestyle of timeless order.

The order was an illusion, just as an unsinkable ship is an illusion, but that was seen only when the British could no longer afford to maintain the illusion. Yet the illusion was so powerful that Pakistan's rulers didn't see Partition as abandoning the motherland: they would go on ruling, as they had always done, and the mighty British Empire would continue to remain their protector. The second great European war was a blip, as the first great European war had been; the British would bounce back and everything would continue as before.

When the illusion vanished Pakistan's ruling families were left with the outward forms, the mannerisms of Pax Britannica: cricket matches, marching bands, a patronizing contempt for Hindus, high tea. That's what they gave up the motherland for and they know it. That's why it could take Pakistan's ruling families another generation before they're able to let go of a past that is more real to them than anything around them today.

However, Afghans and the NATO countries don't have a generation to wait for the balm of time to exorcise a ghost. For that reason the NATO military command and its civilian bosses need to cease trying to reform, advise, or otherwise guide the Pakistanis. Instead, they need to buckle down to the task of persuading Afghans that the Westerners leading the war in Afghanistan aren't barking mad.

I myself, being a Westerner, find nothing strange about people who change their mind every 15 minutes; I think of it simply as either a lack of focus or being data-driven in one's decision-making processes. But the NATO leaders must allow that some people do consider the trait a sign of insanity. That perception is now the greatest obstacle NATO faces in Afghanistan.

Photograph: "A boy uses cream on his face as he sits in rain water on a street in Karachi, July 27, 2010" from Pakistan through the eyes of Reuters - a gallery of Reuters news photos published in collaboration with Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

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Tuesday, January 4

Rural Africa takes a running leap and vaults into the vanguard of the modern era

A social revolution, driven by cell phones and cheap portable energy technologies, has been taking place in the world's most remote rural regions and with the African continent in the lead.

In Africa the revolution started about a decade ago with the discovery by a few African entrepreneurs that the cell phone was much more than a thing for talking with people across distances: it could also be used as a bank and a market-maker for farmers.

The discovery spread like wildfire and created a new service industry in Africa. What happened next was so astonishing, and happened with such speed, that in July 2006, when Kevin Sullivan summarized the progress of the revolution for The Washington Post, I felt compelled to warn Pundita readers, and myself, against irrational exuberance. (Interpreting Africa news: neither sing nor cry.)

But those of us who were familiar with the ponderous attempts during the latter half of the 20th Century to modernize Africa by recreating the path of the West's development found it hard not to burst into song about the cell phone revolution. We were looking at the prospect that Africa was poised to simply vault over the centuries of Western development.

The second phase of the revolution followed in natural fashion from the first: Once rural Africans who lived away from their nations' electrical grid found the cell phone to be indispensable, they began casting around for ways to circumvent the long commutes to an electricity source to get their cell phone recharged. Voilà, the galloping popularity of the single solar panel! On December 24, 2010, The New York Times summarized the phenomenon and its impact:
African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power
By Elisabeth Rosenthal

KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.

Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.

“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other things,” Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children.

As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.

Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.

In fact, neighbors now pay her 20 cents to charge their phones, although that business may soon evaporate: 63 families in Kiptusuri have recently installed their own solar power systems.

“You leapfrog over the need for fixed lines,” said Adam Kendall, head of the sub-Saharan Africa power practice for McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm. “Renewable energy becomes more and more important in less and less developed markets.” [...]
African nations aren't the only places where the single-solar panel source for electrification has caught on; Rosenthal mentions that there are yurts in inner Mongolia that feature solar cells on the roof. But the African continent's huge number of farmers who live far from a central power grid is making the continent the proving ground for micro electrification projects of all kinds, including the single solar panel.

There are obstacles in the way of large-scale implementation of the projects, as Rosenthal's report goes on to detail. But she also notes that there's so much money to be made in Africa from 'off-the-grid' electrification projects that the projects are attracting interest from deep-pockets investors.

And looking beyond the micro projects, which include technologies such as using rice husks to generate small-scale electrification projects (see Rosenthal's report), there is the fact that all of Africa is one big renewable power-generating source. From Wikipedia's article Renewable Energy in Africa:
Many African countries receive on average 325 days per year of bright sunlight. This gives solar power the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Africa without the need for expensive large-scale grid level infrastructure developments.

The distribution of solar resources across Africa is fairly uniform, with more than 80 percent of their landscape receiving almost 2000 kW·h per square meter per year. A recent study indicates that a solar generating facility covering just 0.3% of the area comprising North Africa could supply all of the energy required by the European Union.
The same article also summarizes the situation for Africans:
Approximately one-third of the estimated 1.6 billion people living without access to electricity worldwide live in Africa. It is estimated that, with the exception of Libya, South Africa and Egypt, the majority of African countries are only able to provide direct access to electricity to 20% of their peoples. This number is as low as 5% in some countries. Most of the existing power plants and transmission equipment were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, and in the absence of proper maintenance have deteriorated over the last several decades; the degradation has forced many utilities to operate at small fractions of their installed capacity.
Theft has also played a role in degrading electricity service delivered from central power sources, as the Wikipedia article on rural electrification underscores in its discussion of India:
400 million Indians have no access to electricity. The problem is not one of distribution, but of provision. Many people attempt to steal electric power. The electric company then responds with punitive "tampering tariffs" that require payment for all the electricity that the fraudulent connections and meters might have stolen. These very high tariffs are unaffordable and so resisted by all but the wealthiest users.

The result is that the underfunded electric power company reduces service to the amount of electricity it can afford to produce. The electric companies therefore also prefer to serve large institutional customers that pay their bills.

Development in cheap solar technology is considered as a potential alternative that allows an electricity infrastructure comprising of a network of local-grid clusters with distributed electricity generation. That could allow bypassing, or at least relieving the need of installing expensive, and lossy, long-distance centralised power delivery systems and yet bring cheap electricity to the masses.

The government has proposed legislation to have village leaders operate local generators run from biomass (see links). Locally-controlled generation is preferable to distant generation because the fuel, billing and controls for the generator will then be controlled by the villagers themselves, and they are thought more likely to come to an equitable arrangement among themselves.

However, there is doubt that villagers can run such an installation.
That last statement reminds me of a cartoon that shows big-city Indian computer programmers dumbing down an explanation of how to use the internet for a group of villagers and getting bombarded with sophisticated tecchie questions in reply. See the rest of Rosenthal's report for more indications that villagers can indeed run such installations.

Maybe ten years many villages couldn't have run the installations, just as bringing the internet to remote villages, even five years ago, presented the kind of education challenge that the cartoon alluded to. But the snowballing use of the cell phone, which even in the West is rapidly replacing the desktop and the laptop computer, means that villagers become familiar with the basic concepts of the internet via the cell phone.

With familiarity has come awareness that with the internet you're always only a few keystrokes or text messages away from someone in the world who can help you figure out the diagram for hooking up a solar panel or what went wrong with your village's biomass conversion contraption.

The wet blankets will ask how long before the scoundrels screw up the revolution. There have already been debasements of the technologies; Sullivan's 2006 report noted:
Cellphones have also created a new kind of corruption in a country [Congo] rife with it: People here tell of government officials demanding bribes in the form of airtime transferred to their cellphones. Local officials said they believe armed rebel groups use cellphones and [texting] to coordinate their operations in the country's eastern provinces, where they fight regularly with 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers, the largest U.N. force in the world.
But just as a tsunami can't be stopped, so the scoundrels are bailing water with a sieve if they want to halt the unstoppable; that's because the velocity of social change has been greatly accelerated by the revolution.

To understand the velocity angle: if you look at the programs that major development banks finance you'll see they compartmentalize the problems faced by the poor in the poorest countries; e.g., there are programs to address the lack of education, programs to address lack of electricity, programs to address deforestation, etc.

There are attempts to coordinate the different programs, without much success. However, the compartmentalizing has always meant that governments that administer the programs can't keep up with the problems that the programs are meant to address. Yet you can see for yourself by reading the Sullivan and Rosenthal reports that once rural peoples learn to utilize cheap, portable communications and energy technologies, this de-compartmentalizes the typical model of rural development.

Note how within the space of one year Sara Ruto went from owning her first cell phone to generating her own electricity to becoming an entrepreneur. And note how this markedly improved her children's health and education. That says nothing about the huge savings in her caloric output brought about by electricity and electronic communications. Energy she was expending toward repetitive baseline survival tasks she can now divert to more creative activities, ones that help her make even more gains in improving her family's lot in life.

And note that the pioneers in a village don't know at first about all the ways they can benefit from a cell phone and a single solar panel; once they do know, word of mouth quickly spreads the news. The upshot is that the velocity of social change is rapidly accelerating and branching out to address, in intuitive fashion, all the problems that the old development model sought to address piecemeal.

Driving all this rapid change is Do-it-Yourself fever. Many old-world societies attach a stigma to tinkering because of rigid class distinctions and the idea that the most coveted stations in society don't include manual labor. This attitude has tended to discourage the budding MacGyvers in such societies. Today, the discovery that there are all sorts of cool cheap gadgets you can hook up yourself to make your life scads easier is bringing out the tinkerer in millions who live in the old world. If that's not a great thought to start off the New Year with, I don't know what is.

Sara Ruto and the solar panel on her hut

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