Crossette & cliché

A fisking of Barbara Crossette’s piece in Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy‘s online editors invited me to rebut Barbara Crossette’s piece on India being the baddest boy of global governance. You can see the published version on their website. This is the original draft.

Making room for India
Contrary to Barbara Crossette, India does the global governance thing

According to Financial Times’ Lucy Kellaway, “Elephant in the Room” was the most popular cliché to appear in major newspapers and journals in 2009. It is perhaps appropriate then, that Barbara Crossette’s latest diatribe against India appeared in Foreign Policy under that headline. While it claims to show that it is India that causes the most “the most global consternation” and “gives global governance the biggest headache” it is merely a series of rants and newsroom clichés selected entirely arbitrarily in order to support the author’s prejudice.

It is unfathomable how Ms Crossette can declare that it is India that causes the most consternation and the biggest headache—among Afghanistan, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Pakistan and China—merely by listing its alleged failings. Without an attempt to compare the failings across countries—and why only these countries, why leave out the West and the rest?—it is logically impossible to arrive at a conclusion that one of them is the biggest culprit. But once you trade logic for hyperbole, you can fit just about any animal you like into that room. For Ms Crossette’s, it is the pachyderm.
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Are Washington Post’s editors out to lunch?

Beware: it is seeing India fighters marking halls

Just because Shaiq Hussain and Karin Brulliard, reporting from Rawalpindi, sent in their report on a Sunday, it doesn’t mean that the Washington Post’s editors can let references to Little Green Men from Mars appear unfactchecked in their news pages. Look at this (linkthanks @muladhara):

Despite the Taliban’s assertion of responsibility for the attack, some analysts and intelligence officials said the assault bore the hallmark of Indian fighters, who might have been acting in retaliation for a bombing last week outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Pakistan’s intelligence officials have regularly alleged that India, its archrival, supports insurgents fighting in their country. [WP]

Hallmark of India fighters? Hallmark of Indian fighters? Hallmark of Indian fighters?

Remember this is the Washington Post, not even the New York Times. And it says Indian fighters. It needs to either sack some of the editors responsible—for who knows what they’ll allow to slip through next—or perhaps hire one.

A conversion course for Middle Eastern journalists

On ‘entrenched military rule’

Western journalist moving from the Middle Eastern beat to the subcontinent must be put through a transition programme, mostly requiring them to read history and the daily news. Perhaps then, like a certain Graham Usher, they won’t write a sentence likemilitary rule in Indian-occupied Kashmir remained as entrenched as ever” in between 2004-2008. Sure, the writer is based in Islamabad, so it is understandable if he chooses to use the word like Indian-“occupied” Kashmir, but entrenched “military rule”? Mr Usher claims ‘entrenched military rule’ in Jammu & Kashmir is one reason why the bilateral back channel talks over Kashmir broke down. He must be ignorant of facts, terribly confused or engaged in wilful misrepresentation: for the only part of Kashmir where military rule is entrenched is the part that Pakistan occupies. Surely, Mr Usher can’t have missed the fact that Jammu & Kashmir had very successful elections in 2002 and again in 2008, where a large number of people turned up to vote. That’s even before the ‘peace process’ started in 2004.

The article itself is a regurgitation of the delusional thinking that prevails in the Pakistani military establishment and the kind of line that comes out of the Pakistani foreign office. Sure, the writer is based in Islamabad, but the level of credulousness is astonishing.

Update: K Shankar Bajpai’s masterful deconstruction of the vacuous argument:

If Kashmir underlies Pakistani policy, again it is not Indian but Pakistani designs that will shape events. It is not India that is trying to change the situation. Pakistan will say we are missing the point: all their provocations arise from India’s greater provocation, the “wrong” we continue in Kashmir. Public versions of back-channel achievements are wrong in major ways, but demonstrate one great reality: even this issue can be resolved bilaterally if Pakistan is willing.

We have been through all this endlessly, Pakistan will no more believe our version than we can theirs; but, knowing both, Washington still defers to Pakistani obsessions. Catering to delusions does not dispel them: progress depends on uprooting them. This Herculean work (which we will be pressed to facilitate) is surely the first priority. Washington cannot work miracles: even if imagined. There is the reality of Pakistan professing fears, but don’t call them “legitimate”. [IE]

Why kill the rabbi?

A question for the apologists of terrorism

It is certainly not easy for professional analysts, leave alone television-friendly commentators and editorial writers, to offer solutions to the central problem—what are we to do with Pakistan? So many take the lazy way out by inserting the word “Kashmir” somewhere in their answer. As V Anantha Nageswaran wrote in his rejoinder to a Financial Times editorial, it is as if jihadi terrorists would suddenly stop attacking India if only Kashmir were to be handed over to them. No, they don’t even bother to read the manifesto of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. If they do, they’d know that the Lashkar-e-Taiba has enough on its wish-list to make the “solve Kashmir and make the problem go away” line appear more than a little ridiculous. But they don’t, so they avoid appear ridiculous to themselves.

Thankfully, there are some good men who expose this intellectual fraud. Like David Aaronovitch of the London Times who asks why the terrorists had to target a Jewish centre, and torture and kill Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife and their unborn child if it was about Kashmir. Mark Steyn (linkthanks Harsh Gupta) echoes this argument.

And Tom Gross, who takes a number of media outlets—many of them British—to the cleaners for indulging in grotesque contortions of common sense to avoid using the term jihadis and terrorists. Among those Mr Gross exposes is British TV anchor Jon Snow who deserves a pride of place in it for calling the terrorists “practitioners”.

While most editorialists and op-ed writers hovered between the banal and the callous, Greg Sheridan, Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria provided the most useful insights. Mr Sheridan (linkthanks: ST) leads the pack, because he accurately points out that “modern terrorism is not so much the emergence of non-state actors on to the strategic field but, rather, the latest refinement of state power, giving the option of state military and terrorist action with plausible, or at least politically useful, deniability.” The solution that both Mr Friedman and Mr Zakaria offer—that it’s up to the Pakistani people to realise the danger and drive the necessary change—might inspire some hope, but does not inspire much confidence.

Related Link: Niranjan Rajadhyaksha posted a roundup of editorials from foreign newspapers on his blog last week.

Update: A good piece in NYT by Patrick French (linkthanks: Mohib); and Bill Kristol was one of the first to call it right.