Category Archives: Politics/Diplomacy
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Growing up in the 80s as Indian-American kids with parents from India, many of us often heard rumblings about the mysterious Indian figure Rajneesh, also known as Osho or Bhagwan (God). At dinner parties and picnics, Indian parents and other adults would talk animatedly about this cult of personality and his myriad followers who forcibly parked themselves on an exceedingly white and conservative part of Oregon in the late 70s and early 80s to form a weird religious cult commune.
The hushed tones and liberal use of the language Hindi by adults in those gatherings, which most of us kids didn’t know very well, always denoted to me that there was something deeply sinister going on in conversation about the Rajneeshis. My parents thought that they were being discrete, but using Hindi as a covert device was the biggest dead giveaway that the talk was of nefarious things, and probably involved something called sex, and it had gone awfully wrong. And it sure did make us Indian people look bad throughout that decade on the global stage.
This was an exceedingly unique American story and a touchpoint of its time: mostly white hippy American types by the hundreds falling over themselves to drop everything, move to Oregon, and unconditionally worship the (admittedly interesting) teachings of a brown man from India who presented himself as no less than a God floating around in flowing colorful robes in a fleet of expensive Rolls Royce cars and private jets. Rajneesh was the ultimate figurehead of an American Mega Church movement, if that person was not only considered a God but also a rock star. His core message was promoting the guilt-free enjoyment of materialism, pleasure, and spirituality side by side.
Once I was old enough to know a bit more, the Rajneesh story bored me. It seemed like a typical trope about cultural appropriation of Indian traditions, fueled by Americans and Europeans flocking to ashrams in India to “find themselves” and engage in large sex orgies and liberal drug use in Indian clothes in a misplaced quest for spirituality and personal growth. When the predictable downfall of the highly suspect cult/commune arrived, it all came crashing down with an avalanche of financial embezzlement, illegal surveillance, threats of violence, and the long arm of the law coming down hard in the form of FBI raids and prison sentences. Everything about this just seemed so cliche to me, that I never cared to research too much into it below the surface knowledge I had as described above.
As it turns out I was completely wrong, at least in terms of how interesting and intricate the narrative actually was. Until this spring when I started watching Wild, Wild Country, Whatever little I had picked up about the Rajneeshi cult was more than I cared to know. I had been dismissive of it all. But that changed in one fell swoop, further evidence that a lot of what I think I know, I really don’t after all. It was easy to dismiss these failing sannyasins as a bunch of gullible nutjobs and posers trying to build their own obviously unattainable utopia right here in the United States.
But then a flip switched. Until I recently watched the Wild, Wild Country documentary series on Netflix out of vague curiosity, I learned there was much I didn’t know about the Rajneeshis. I had no idea how big they became, with thousands of members at their peak in numerous outposts around the world. I was especially unfamiliar with the tiny young Indian woman named Ma Anand Sheela, the hand-picked deputy of Rajneesh who effectively launched and then ran the massive communal enterprise of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon with an iron fist. I mean this chick was feisty, fearless, smart, tough as nails, camera-ready, and a formidable manager and leader by any objective measure. She was for some reason empowered by Rajneesh to lead the vast religious, political, and sociological experiment, and managed to accomplish large things within a few short and eventful years.
Wild, Wild Country is absolutely fascinating and so is its subject. It has certainly earned its 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Built upon many hours of original archival footage, it shows not just a commune but an entire city government being built from the ground up in rural Oregon, surrounded by communities who downright despised the Rajneeshis to pieces. Suddenly an airport, roads, farms, homes, buildings, police force, defense force, city hall, and city council rose from empty land through the sheer will of the Rajneeshis, their collective sweat equity and organizational acumen. This intrigued the city government official in me. They built something special. The cult even began to perpetuate their own laws and justice proceedings, somewhat akin to a Native American tribal reservation, within the United States but somewhat separated from it. They sure had balls.
And the problems started right there. Predictably, a minor war ensued between the suspicious locals and the passionate Rajneeshi cult members who were performing all manner of rituals in their little city, and rubbing their newfound wealth, power, and peculiar culture in your face. Copious amounts of interviews were filmed in the modern day with some of the people involved from opposing angles, including conservative local retirees who hated the foreign influences they were seeing around them, law enforcement personnel who were eventually called upon to investigate the cult, and several key Rajneeshi members including Ma Anand Sheela herself calmly explaining the history of the downright bizarre events that permanently shaped all of their lives during that period some four decades ago. This stuff is stranger than fiction.
The documentary series spends far more airtime on Ma Anand Sheela, her tight inner circle, and her wheelings and dealings than the overall leader Rajneesh. After all it was she who ran the nuts and bolts of the movement, while Rajneesh seemed to just float through the scenery sort of above and outside of it all, saying and doing little of consequence. The filmmakers were wise to do this. Though I wish I could have seen more about Rajneesh and where the hell he came from, and what the hell it was this fraudulent Indian con man did all day, Sheela is a far more complex, interesting and intriguing character in this play. She was no doubt a true believer.
Even if you know how the story ends, the journey holds many plot twists, escalating conflicts, outright danger, and thrilling moments leading up to climax. There is plenty of well-timed suspense. During some parts of the 6 episodes, it almost felt like I was actually there immersed in the city of Rajneeshpuram during that time in history. The townspeople splinter amongst themselves. The Rajneeshis also suffered epic meltdowns and schisms within their ranks, some self-inflicted and others by force of outside influence. Although many of the key figures come across as batshit crazy at times, on both sides of the war, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for both perspectives as much of the conflict falls into the gray fog between what was right and who was wrong.
As for Ma Anand Sheela, she goes through a long and most wonderful metamorphosis worthy of comparison to a butterfly, and the series documents this arc well. It is in fact near impossible to reconcile what she was, to what she later in life became. And this may be the best part of all for those who believe self-improvement is possible. It is a phenomenon within the Rajneeshi phenomenon that I came to learn more about them despite my own chauvinistic blinders.
I encourage all of you to drop everything else in your queue and enjoy Wild, Wild Country.
*Writer’s note: Credit Bill Maher and his guest, historian John Meachem, for briefly discussing on Friday what the founding fathers may have thought of the current nightmare American government has morphed into. Meachem cleverly insinuated that the fathers might have actually been surprised that it took THIS long to get a tyrant into power. This got me thinking, and writing.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
GW = George Washington;
TJ = Thomas Jefferson;
BF = Benjamin Franklin
The three men are seated in a bar on M Street, Georgetown, in Washington, DC, May 2018, sipping ale
GW: Want me to be frank? Honestly I feel energized… Oh glorious day! Finally, Americans will have the chance once again to fight a tyrant who endeavors to rule over them and once again, prove their mettle to the world! What luck for the citizens of 2018 to be born into an era on the razor’s edge between democracy and dictatorship not seen for so long, not since 1776. 242 years of laziness and complacency have not the Republic served well.
TJ: George, as per usual proving much the indefatigable and overconfident jock…always relishing, nay, spoiling for the next fight. Your masculinity and raging hormones at times cloud your judgment, methinks. And the Yoda thing, you’ve been watching too much Star Wars lately, Sir.
BF: Speaking of. My labs are quite close to reverse engineering a portable light saber, which may one day yet prove fruitful to my secret Jedi contacts at the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM).
TJ: But you do digress, Benjamin.
BF: Indeed, but I do digress from your very own digression. Digressions and transgressions are those aspects of our personalities which make us human, Thomas. Embrace them like the polymath you are.
TJ: Benjamin, ever the philosopher. Coming back to this tyrant, this Pervert Orangutan of sorts.
GW: This tyrant who lies in bed eating cheeseburgers two miles away from us will be defeated by the institutions and systems we put into place to check and balance just such a vile figure. We were brilliant in our framings and ruminations in the late 18th century.
TJ: You are quite upbeat, old chap. But what if the tyrant beats the patriots this time and our little experiment goes to shit within just 242 years? What if he succeeds in cancelling democracy?
GW: Did I sit around crying in the freezing winter cold of Valley Forge, my men dying of hypothermia and lacking even food rations or shoes, obsessed by the specter of defeat, allowing my troops to witnesseth my mourning in my own depression well before anti-depressant pills were even invented?
BF: Bravo, George. But let us not underestimate the lengths I went to in Paris, wining and dining my way across town and wooing all manner of ladies to gain the trust of the Versaille court and bring France to our cause.
GW: Such hardships you had to overcome, Benjamin. Without exploring the cracks, one will not find the Liberty Bell that today does yet ring so sweet and true, eh?
BF: We aren’t so different, you and I. George, you are a born pugilist and I, a natural diplomat. One hand washes the other.
GW: We also happen to agree that light sabers are fabulous, and of the highest order of importance is their speedy production without delay for our soldiers at arms.
TJ: We seem to have a political party, the Repugnicans, that is somehow fallen in line 100% behind the tyrant and his dictatorial tendencies. Those within the party ranks who speak out are raked over the coals most cruelly and unusually.
GW: Didn’t we ban such punishing behaviors in the outset?
TJ: Tell that to the boys of Abu-Grab!
BF: In seriousness, perhaps the threat of gravest import is the number of our American descendents who are so willing to support the tyrant no matter what he does. He could shoot a person on 5th Avenue, but the sheep would still follow. Some citizens seem to have forgotten the value of democracy, voting rights, human dignity, a free press, and facts. Without these, our little experiment could be dead in the water.
TJ: These fools stand at 40% of the adult population only, and not enough to maintain the corrupt tyranny for long.
GW: Let us be honest with ourselves, Sirs. WE too, miss our slaves.
BF: Of course. But most people moved on long ago, while some others did not, especially in those pesky former southern colonies built on cotton, tobacco, and loathing.
GW: The institutions led by patriotic Americans will always win against the wannabe tyrants. We baked it into the system. We will see victorious patriots winning the elections, marching in the streets, gaining the upper hand in courts, and in general waking up the country to the potential for possibility and progress.
TJ: What will become of those supporters of the tyrant who witness their pipe dreams of white male supremacy and retrograde social rules cruelly dragged along and dashed to the ground once and for all?
BF: Who cares about what happened to the loyal deputies of King George who wanted to see US lose? Their time on the wrong side of history too shall soon come to pass in front of the world.
All of my life, I had heard about the concept of depression from other people, but it always appeared to me as a foreign object that I would struggle to understand. People I know over the years would talk about their depressions or nervous breakdowns, or those of their own family members and friends. But I would be on the outside looking in, like watching it snow inside a snow globe but not understanding what it would be like to get 5 feet of snow dumped on top of my head and stay buried under it.
All that would change. November 8, 2016 started out great enough. As a New York City civil servant, I got election day off that day, just like I had every year. I woke up on that nice fall day in Brooklyn and went to vote at a school in my awesome neighborhood called Cobble Hill. There was a beautiful five year old girl waiting in line with her mother, and on my way out she asked her mom if she could get an “I voted today” sticker that she saw on people’s shirts. Just as her mom told her it had to be earned by adults who voted, I gave the little girl my own. I felt great and so did the little girl.
It was a happy moment for me, and the first of many on the day. I hung out for the rest of the day off with my good friends in the hipster enclave of Red Hook, joking, laughing, eating, drinking, walking, talking, flirting with strangers, and trying to soak in the fact that within a few hours, America would finally vote in its first female president in history.
By 11pm that night, I went into a state of physical and mental shock. I exchanged a set of WhatsApp messages with my close relative, who was sitting on a beach in India and drinking beers early in the morning, India time, seeing the same live US election results that I was. Indeed, he had predicted Trump’s victory months earlier, but I refused to entertain even a hint of that thought. “Are you doing okay?” he asked. For the first time in my life, after quick consideration I responded to him with the honesty that a close relative and friend deserved: “No,” I replied.
It sounds cheesy to say this when so many people have worse problems than me, like painful stages of cancer, dead children, blindness, or missing legs. Plus I am by no means alone in falling into a dark abyss late in 2016. But I had to admit to myself that my world had shattered. Many others probably felt as bad or worse, for example those who worked on Hillary’s election campaign and were cheated out of victory.
But I can only speak for myself. I finally learned what depression meant, the hard way, as I mourned the end of America as we knew it. It was like a family member I loved dying. My optimism, which always drove me for 36 years of life was melting away in real time. I went from an optimist to a cynic. And being unused to cynicism, I found out for the first time that it’s a very hard way to live.
I have always had jobs since my 16th birthday, and I always worked hard. But on November 9th, 2016, I could not do a single shred of work properly. I sat and largely stared at my computer screen. My body felt frozen. My mind was numb. I couldn’t focus for more than three minutes at a time. I was surrounded by colleagues who were going through the same thing, and on this particular day, it was considered acceptable and almost predictable to be useless and unproductive. After all, most of us lived and worked together in New York City. We knew the criminal scumbag con man Trump better than anyone else did. It wasn’t us who voted that charlatan and his evil family in, it was the rest of the country’s fault. Not that it made us New Yorkers feel any better.
The next few months were painful as I descended into feeling hopeless and helpless about the world, and wondering what the point of it all was if we were headed toward destroying humanity and our planet anyway at some point soon. Family members and friends were feeling many of the same cynical things and didn’t offer a way out. I burned. I started giving up on trying to be healthy, or caring about current events, or the future. Classic depression type symptoms. And I was smart enough to know it.
But then something happened. By February 2017 we began seeing the flickering glimmer of a path towards takedown and impeachment, which I am now confident is inevitable. I went through a few dark and deep spiritual experiences in this period of time. My optimism gradually and slowly re-emerged, like a glorious Phoenix from the ashes of the very fire that had burned me.
I got serious about writing fiction, something I had been talking and thinking about since I was 12 years old. I entered a fiction contest on a whim and got second place. I became active on Twitter, starting arguments and rants and making jokes, and it all felt therapeutic during a hard time. I started donating to political campaigns, and signing petitions. I regained some of the joy and fun in dating, which had been absent for several years since my divorce, a period when I viewed dating as a chore and a bore. I initiated a serious job search process, which resulted in me moving out of New York City to Wisconsin to take on a new job, career trajectory, and life in an extremely different place. I began playing the tablas again after a 20 year hiatus. I began playing the drum set again after a 20 year hiatus. And between 2017 and early 2018, I finally completed a first draft of my novel manuscript.
If I were to blame Trump for feeling depressed, it would only be fair to assign my nearly pathological quest to improve myself in isolation on an island while the world was falling apart all around me, to his specter too. I was forcibly stuffed into a dark place by a monster. I feel that I have clawed my way out of the hole. Shouldn’t the monster get at least some of the credit too?
I believe so. And I also think that other people, and the national conscience as a collective may be able to do the same, and use the sorrow and hate and rage and depression to their advantage, and our advantage. Donald Trump, his supporters, and all of the evil that they represent can be viewed as a giant stress test– on you, on me, on the country, and on the world. Assuming we survive the stress test, we will be better off. That which does not kill you will make you stronger.
I feel like I am living proof of that. Now, when the idiot tweets something, threatens somebody, lies about something, bombs somewhere, or goes golfing while the world burns, I don’t give a shit like I used to. I ignore it. He is too dumb to be worth my time. SCREW HIM. It’s up to the creaky system now. Let the old white Republican men like Comey, Mueller, Rosenstein, Flake, Corker, and McCain take out their own trash.
I’m going to be over here, working on becoming a constantly new and improving version of myself. Thank you. I mean that sincerely for helping me become a better man. I am using you like the tool that you are.
-Mahanth S. Joishy
Indian-Americans tend to be loyal to the United States. They generally work or study, raise their families, and peacefully go about their business as doctors or cab drivers or hotel owners. Some sign up to be in government (like me) or the military. They tend to be liberal, but they do float across the political spectrum. They win almost every spelling bee.
Rarely will you find an Indian-American shooting up a school, joining a gang, starting a supremacist militia, or getting recruited by ISIS or Al-Qaeda. While these things might occur, they happen at far lower rates than with other diasporas. Most people credit education and family structure for these things, like with other successful communities.
Therefore, when someone from our diaspora commits active treason against the United States, it becomes sort of a big deal because such cases are so few and far between. Dig and scrape through the archives back to 1776, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find what’s right in front of our faces today. I present to you Exhibit A, the deplorable White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Raj Shah, a traitor not just to Indian-Americans like Bobby Jindal is, but to the United States itself.
Unsurprisingly for a Trump appointee, Raj is reckless. His DWI conviction for a booze-soaked BMW ride in New Mexico got him fired from a political job in 2010. Want to bet that the time he got caught was the only time Raj went a-boozin’ and a-drivin’? Perfect fit in this administration full of boozers, wife-beaters, racists, traitors, misogynists, money launderers, gangsters, and perverts, right?
Now we don’t use the word *traitor* lightly, and not all of those cursed souls in the White House deserve that label. Only the ones outright lying to cover up crimes against the United States, like Shah’s disgusting boss, Sarah Huckaberry Colonel Sanders whom the guy must have learned so much from. He has been fortunate to learn from the very worst. On February 8th, Shah gave her the day off and fumbled through a press conference about the administration’s extremely poor handling of wife-beater Rob Porter’s employment, and worse, personally defended Porter himself repeatedly. Shah embarrassed all Indians around the world that day. On top of it all, he was an overmatched, unprepared blathering idiot on the podium: he was not even good at being a bad human being.
But the treason against the United States has taken place in relation to Russia. Shah is knee deep in the #TrumpRussia scandal, defending his boss’s illegal activities time and again, hyping up the obstructive Devin Nunes memo, casting aspersions on the Steele dossier, and repeating wing nut nonsense about FISA warrants, all of which smells very much like obstruction of justice.
Congratulations, Raj. You are the biggest Indian-American traitor in US history. I hope you go down hard along with your false idols Colonel Huckaberry and Captain Bonespur.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
PS: Nikki Haley today saved herself from joining the Indian-American treason this week by squarely blaming Russia for the chemical terrorism in the UK. Raj, it’s not too late to get on the right side of history.
Robert Mueller and his team are leading the effort to save American democracy at a time when democracy is in deep peril. He will go down in the history books as one of the greatest Americans ever, despite never holding high elected office. Mark my words. Godspeed, Robert Mueller. The real patriots are behind you.
The Democratic Party is a poorly run organization. It’s shockingly pathetic and disunited. Somebody please give these people a wake-up call. Democrats are quite obviously and measurably superior to Republicans when it comes to brain function, moral high ground, inclusion, integrity, and general policy. For the first time ever, Democrats have even whisked the mantles of national security and law & order from the opposition.
I’ve never been a Democrat in my entire life and I’m still not there yet, though I believe that will change in 2018 for the first time. My first political hero as of middle school was a party-less and radically conservative presidential candidate named Ross Perot. Until Bernie ran for President, he was a true knee-jerk independent socialist and my favorite politician for a number of recent years. As an adult, I’ve also always registered Independent to vote.
I have never identified as a Democrat or a Republican. Although I largely lean liberal on social policies, I’m fiscally more conservative and a believer in small, nimble, clean, effective government- philosophies which Republicans have decided to abdicate wholesale and Democrats rarely follow. I have worked in government my entire adult life, most of it under Republican administrations. And neither party has felt like home to me, though I vote Democrat a majority of the time. The Republicans, because they are slowly degenerating into pure distilled evil in dumb, naked, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal form; and Democrats, because they’re so damn pathetic.
The Democrats’ original sin in my adult life is a complete lack of political will. Somehow Democrats always manage to bring knives to the gun fight, as Bill Maher likes to say. They like to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. On top of that Democrats lack unity, always finding ways to split the party into factions. In the fateful 2000 campaign, Al Gore stupidly distanced himself from a popular Bill Clinton simply due to some blowjobs and cigars moistened with vaginal juice. If that hadn’t happened, Gore would have won decisively, but he lacked the most basic political instincts or will to survive an easy election against a weak candidate surrounded for a staff by his one-term dad’s fossils. Even worse, Gore won the popular vote and also the electoral college legitimately, but still bent over and handed the election illegitimately over to George W. Bush thanks to a corrupt Florida Republican government run by the candidate’s own brother, Jeb!
There was a *wink, nod* and we had hanging or pregnant chads, re-counts, lawsuits, and various instances of cheating which led to W taking office on a party line Supreme Court decision, changing the course of American and world history for the worse. Gore’s team did not engage in the fight tooth and nail the way the Republicans did. Many liberals defected to the inimitable Ralph Nader. Gore conceded too early. He gave up under both superior and more shameless firepower in the legal fights after election night. In other words, Gore did what Democrats almost always do. Forget that Dems should be winning these elections against flawed opponents running away. They even manage to lose elections that they really did win (2000 and 2016).
There are two notable exceptions, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, two once-in-a-lifetime politicians and the brightest spots in the Democratic party over the last 40 years. Without them, there is little of the same fight, scrap, political will, toughness, and brute intelligence in what we see in the Democratic Party or its pedigree today. But this is no longer acceptable. They need to be fighting tooth and nail now.
The Democratic Party, and it scares the crap out of me to say this, is the only thing that stands between #PervertOrangutan, and dictatorship. In 2018, I am going to become a Democrat for the first time in my life. Grudgingly. Kicking and screaming. Not for any good reasons at all. We are frighteningly close to losing democracy itself. Republicans have shown their true colors, figuring themselves to be more than happy to cancel democracy, commit treason, follow the #PervertOrangutan in and out of the gates of hell, and give dictatorship at least the old college try. What could possibly be better for the rich donors propping up the GOP than dictatorship and oligarchy above the reaches of laws? The Koch Brothers and Donald Trump and Jared Kushner and Paul Ryan and Sean Hannity are more easily understood not as political figures but corrupt Russian oligarchs, leading the destruction of America and the planet with Putin’s help but pretending to act within the rules of democracy they have trampled over.
Yet Democrats lose elections and Supreme Court seats and legislative battles day in and day out as if they expect those things to happen. Millions of Democrat women voters marched around AFTER Trump was inaugurated, not enough of them marching to the ballot box when they were needed. Obama, as great a president as he was, made the unforgivable mistake of not retaliating publicly and more forcefully as the Russians openly helped steal an election on his watch, taking an astounding preponderance of caution in order to project integrity in the process. Little good that caution does us now as we sink agonizingly close to dictatorship. Again, a knife to a gunfight.
Contrast that with what Republicans would have done. If Obama’s people were caught secretly talking to the Russians during the 2008 campaign, let’s say in 2006 and 2007, America would have dragged Obama off in chains to such a deep and dark hole within Guantanamo Bay, we’d never see him again. And yet through all this the Democrats are nearly helpless to respond to the GOP’s bid to dismantle democracy. It is older white male Republicans like Robert Mueller, Jim Comey, Rod Rosenstein, Christopher Wray, and John McCain we are now depending on to man the front lines in the epic war between good and evil. So thoroughly depleted are the Democrat ranks at all levels of federal and state government power, Democrats are relegated to supporting courageous Republican efforts to take on #PervertOrangutan from the back bench.
Figures such as Mark Warner, Adam Schiff, Eric Schneiderman, and Ted Lieu are admirably accomplishing what they can from the JV team. But they need some serious help. 2018 must be a blue wave, or we may as well give up on democracy. For this to happen, Democrats need to mobilize like they never have before.
There are some promising signs. As a feminist, I am looking forward to women kicking some ass this fall and knocking off their sexist opponents in politics, entertainment, and business. New Congressional candidates such as “Iron Stache” Randy Bryce in Wisconsin give me hope, despite uphill battles. Politicians like Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, and Corey Booker will soon be ready for the big time, and promise the party will have a bright future in 2020 and beyond.
But we need to get past the past. Hillary lost, and so did Bernie before that, and the party won’t survive if it continues to re-litigate what bad blood was spilled between the two in 2015 and 2016. The Clintons ran the party from about 1992 till 2008. They had their chances and their fun and did many things well. It’s time to move on.
So there it is, 2018. You are the year when I decided to become a full-throated Democrat for the first time. I am going to volunteer for campaigns and donate money to them. I am going to write about stuff. Foremost in my mind is the unresolved question of whether Democrats can stop being so shockingly pathetic. We will soon find out.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor.
Donald Trump’s first tweet of 2018 made a huge splash around the world. It was that rare sort of Trump foreign policy statement that didn’t deny collusion with Russia, or taunt North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. It was about withdrawing US aid to Pakistan.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
My first instinct was to agree with the premise. I was shocked by positive truths while visiting Pakistan, but I have long thought that the United States should predicate the billions in military and civil aid to Pakistan on effectiveness and measurable progress towards eliminating terrorism and increasing economic development, respectively. It would be fair to take some of that aid away at this point. Pakistan’s government has proven over and over again that a large chunk of US aid will go to build up its armed forces against India and twist the spigot of American blood in Afghanistan to and fro. This dirty double game has been going on ever since 9/11.
Ending the double game is a noble goal. But it’s not so simple. The Trump administration is ramping up the US military presence in Afghanistan by thousands of troops, even as yet another American soldier was killed and four others critically injured there on the day of Trump’s above tweet. The longest war in American history continues even further into Year 17. We are in endless territory when it comes to US blood and treasure and the suffering of the Afghan people. We hardly know or understand who we are fighting and why. The media hardly bothers to cover that war anymore even when Americans die. It’s the textbook definition of mission creep.
Pakistan has been a beneficiary of this war’s largesse from the start, from Bush through Obama to Trump, partly because the US military supply lines run heavily through Pakistan’s ports, airspace, and roads. America pays dearly for the right to use Pakistan’s resources. Cutting off US funds to Pakistan could also result in an explosion of fire and fury as terrorists are unleashed from Pakistani territory and other parts of the world in retaliation by dark networks we aren’t very good at tracking.
Like most half-cocked Trump policy prescriptions, the foreign policy establishment in the United States has no plan prepared to follow through on the threat. The Tweet was poorly timed. How can you cut off aid to Pakistan when you need them for your war? Without winding down the war in Afghanistan, or being able to control Pakistani terrorists or nukes minus the local government’s help, Pakistan still has America by the balls. Even drone strikes in Pakistan require local human intelligence. These things cannot be separated. India’s rejoicing may be premature, and I’m not the only one saying so.
We shall watch now how it all unfolds.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
usindiamonitor was overly underwhelmed that the position of US Ambassador to India had been left vacant for many months since January 2017. That’s when former Ambassador Richard Verma last roamed the halls of the US Embassy and left behind not only the hot air of New Delhi, but also a legacy of forward progress in the US-India relationship. Obama’s pick was also much appreciated by many Indians worldwide as the first Indian-American to hold the post. Trump promised less than one year ago that India would be America’s best friend as he lit up a Hindu diva in New Jersey, stoking the hopes and dreams of innumerable Indian-American voters along with a wonderful lamp.
Do best friends leave Ambassador posts to one another unfilled for that long, especially if the relationship is as superlatively non-controversial and bipartisan as the US-India nexus today? Maybe not. But in June, promising murmurs circulated about a certain Kenneth Juster being appointed to the post, an unexpected announcement which nearly served to make up for the time lapse. Senate confirmation based on Juster’s qualifications seemed a given due to his tried and true negotiations with India. Opposition either domestic or bilateral seemed unlikely to cause real impact.
Yet several more long months of silence on this matter followed, as the White House and its attendant media were consumed by other, baser affairs. On September 5, Juster was finally nominated to be the 26th US Ambassador to India. We urge rapid action by the US Senate to confirm Juster without delay when he comes up to vote this week.
So, who is Kenneth Ian Juster?
Juster had overseas proclivities generally, and toward Asia specifically from an early age. As a Harvard undergraduate he studied abroad in Thailand, and served as a research assistant to Samuel P. Huntington, one of the foremost political science gurus in United States history. Juster’s resume includes substantive stints in both the public and private sectors, and in each area the work took him beyond the water’s edge. He came to know the levers and pipelines of federal bureaucracy at the White House, State Department, Department of Commerce, National Security Council, and National Economic Council. On the other side, Juster was respected by private sector colleagues at entities such as salesforce.com, power law firm Arnold & Porter, and private equity shop Warburg Pincus, all of which have global operations.
When it comes to US-India diplomatic relations, Juster is among the limited pool of Americans who have found themselves deep in the arena over the years- and yet became accepted as true friends of India by Indians. This pool is relatively small, shared by members such as previous Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the aforementioned Richard Verma, the late Congressman Stephen Solarz, and former Ambassador Robert Blackwill. Unlike many in the US foreign policy establishment and particularly in the US State Department, these figures generally didn’t condescend towards their counterparts even if they had to play hardball. Indians have never viewed this as a given. Small wonder that Narendra Modi and his team approved of Juster’s nomination.
Juster is known for helping initiate a High Tech Cooperation Group between the two countries in the early 2000’s, at a time when technology trade and transfer were nowhere near the powerhouse level they have now reached. Today, it’s impossible to keep up with the daily flow of US-India tech deals, mergers, and acquisitions. Some of this is finally creeping into the military realm, including the potential for big-ticket US toys such as the Marine One helicopter and the F-16 fighter jet to be made in India, while American drones and other cutting-edge hardware may be sold to the Indian military, all for the first time.
Juster is even better known for what followed, playing a key role in the multi-year negotiations that culminated in the 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal, to this day a jewel in the crown of bilateral trade, but one which still has a long way to go to fulfill its promise. Nuclear exchange is nowhere near where it could be. Even so 2008 represented the end of a long and difficult climb since 1998, a year when India secretly tested nuclear weapons in the sands underneath the Pokhran desert, angering the United States, prompting sanctions against India, and setting the relationship back by years. There has been a steep climb since 2008 as well to address a myriad of concerns with the deal.
It won’t hurt that Juster has Trump’s ear and has for some years especially on economic matters. There are many challenges in play. A rising China and the bitter escalation with North Korea are going to affect the entire Asian neighborhood for the foreseeable future in this, the Asian Century. The nuclear exchange could stall on matters such as liability. Reduction in the flow of Indians coming to the United States to work and study under the Trump administration should be of serious concern to both countries. Intellectual property and the monitoring quality of drug manufacturing in India for US sales are in need of mutually agreed upon swim lanes. Afghanistan, which has been in turmoil for 40 years will rely heavily on US-India cooperation if it’s ever to stabilize. Future cooperation will also depend on how the United States and Pakistan deal with each other, an issue that India will study more closely than all others.
It is possible that Juster will be part of a much anticipated seismic shift, toward the first mutual defense treaty between the United States and India, befitting for the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest. There are many steps and pitfalls along the way, but we consider this eventuality to be inevitable the way things are going. Might as well get on with it.
Juster will have his hands full upon arrival in New Delhi. But for now, it’s time for the Senate to do its job and confirm the qualified nominee. This is also a very good time to thank Mary Kay Loss Carlson, the US Charge d’Affaires in New Delhi, for holding down the fort during the long interim period. We also applaud the Trump administration for making a good decision in this critical area of foreign policy. If only there were more of them.
Any objective observation of Washington in 2017 reveals a cross-aisle dysfunction and hatred which have risen to legendary levels even by the swamp’s constipated standards over the Potomac River of time. The word ‘bipartisanship’ is now a cruel joke, and most Americans don’t even remember what that word even means. It’s not our fault. Whether it’s immigration, law enforcement, healthcare, taxes, foreign policy, women’s rights, or education. agreement between Republicans and Democrats- voters or politicians- on any major issue not only doesn’t exist, it isn’t even allowed by party leadership. The partisan wounds have had their scabs ripped off.
The shooting of a sitting Congressman at a softball game, a tragedy which should have brought Americans together, instead predictably devolved into a partisan Mexican standoff between the gunfuckers and gun control advocates. Quaint 20th century stories circulate about genteel lawmakers from both parties sharing shrimp salad and a scotch with their spouses, and we laugh at those hazy Washington recollections as they fade from institutional memory.
Yet there is one area on which the sides are in complete agreement, even lockstep (shockingly). It also so happens to be the area of my expertise. Yes, improving US-India relations is today a bipartisan priority- and probably the only bipartisan priority we can manage to come up with. Democrats, Republicans. Governors, Representatives, Senators, Trump, Pelosi, Ryan, McConnell, Sanders, Tillerson, and Schumer all agree that India should be a better friend. Even Nikki Haley stumbled into a good idea, by advocating India’s permanent entry onto the UN Security Council. US politicians are falling over themselves to say nice things about India. As did Obama and his entire cabinet. Trump has repeated the mantra of India’s friendship himself.
It’s not hard to see why. A closer relationship with India is critical for America’s corporations, national defense, anti-piracy counter-terrorism efforts, immigrant diaspora, universities, and balancing against China. Trump, who is on a mission to crush all other aspects of Obama’s legacy at all costs, has embraced Indian Prime Minister just as Obama did.
There are several factors at play making the current environment conducive to closer ties. Chinese saber-rattling. Modi’s open arms to both US political parties and all corporations. US exasperation with a failing Pakistani state. A crumbling Europe.
The situation with all other friends is much more fluid: Trump has bashed Australia and Mexico, distrusts Germany, is jealous of Canada’s Justin Trudeau, has a bizarre male-dominance complex with France’s Macron as demonstrated by creepy handshake rituals. He is afraid to visit the UK, the indispensable US ally, because they will protest him there. Meanwhile, relationships with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia are all over the map- from inexplicable, to chaotic, to bipolar schizophrenic level dangerous, and worse.
The only functional and steady bilateral and bipartisan relationship in Trump’s America is with India. There’s a bipartisan agenda of substance, as demonstrated by Malabar 2017, the largest US-India-Japn trilateral naval exercise ever conducted. And this scrap is the last uneaten morsel left on the table of bipartisanship after the attack dogs have ravaged all else. This is a good thing.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Time will eventually tell us whether Trump goes down as the worst president in US history. At least some competition for that particularly ignoble prize exists, as several other losers from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s come to mind who could give the current occupier of the White House a run for his money.
But we need not wait for the judgement of historians sitting in their ivory towers to reach a very different conclusion right now: six months in, Donald’s Brood is already irreparably and inarguably the worst first family ever seen in US history. Their vileness is impressive in its united and ugly uniformity (for fairness, young Barron, ex-wives, and grandkids must be exempt from this rubric, and they will be mentioned no further). No matter. There is simply no competition, no close second, when discussing the nuclear version of the Trumps vs. any other first family that came before them.
Unfortunately for us all, sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In the case of Trump’s adult children, they are rotten to the very core. Each one is a parasite on America, competing with one another for daddy’s attention, and to see who can most convincingly suck the most blood out of the country and the world, licking it off the silver spoon they were born with. Indecent, entitled, and simply bad human beings, Trump’s perverse legacy will sadly outlast him.
Don, Jr. welcomed Russian help in winning the election with open arms just as his dad was inviting Russia to hack Hillary. Completely lacking a moral center, his only lament from the affair, which blew up this week, is that the Russians brought no dirt on Hillary to the fateful meeting after all following promises of the same. Like Donald, this man is uglier than he thinks he is, a compulsive liar, a spoiled brat, a tool, and a fool. Perfect material for the president’s namesake.
Ivanka plays this dirty game of pretending to care enough about climate change or women’s issues to take away five minutes from her main life’s work, selling third-rate sweatshop slave made apparel at astronomical prices, to talk about these political issues in Vogue magazine. Only for us to find she has no effect on policy whatsoever as her dad proceeds rapaciously to quicken environmental destruction and dismantle women’s health programs. Ivanka is a poorly made up cover front, smiling and dolling up for the magazines and fooling nobody on the right side of things.
None of this is Ivanka’s worst. She brought in yet another prince of darkness, as if there weren’t enough of those little Fauntleroys sitting around already, in the creepy form of her half-baked husband, Jared Kushner. Shockingly, he might be more incompetent and entitled than his siblings-in-law. He repeatedly lies about everything he does, including on national security paperwork. Barely qualified to run a corner ice cream store, the failed real estate magnate-scion wannabe has been given widespread responsibilities encompassing many aspects of domestic and foreign policy, for which he shows zero aptitude or original thought beyond family loyalty. It is a brazen nepotism play that is highly unethical, if barely legal.
Then we have Eric Trump, the wannabe tough guy big game hunter, who uses charity fundraising as a way to make more money for the Trump organization. This is a perfect metaphor for all the Trumps and how they use the organization for self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. There was one area where the family lacked any clout, the political, and they descended on the carcass of the Republican party like a pack of hyenas. The rest is history.
There is one small bright spot in the family. Tiffany isn’t half-bad for an Instagram model whose main job seems to be taking photos in Europe with other trust fund babies. If only the others stayed out of the way like she did!
Finally we have Melania, who represents a treason within a treason. Not only did she enable, protect, and defend her husband as he ushered dark foreign forces in to help win the 2016 US election, despite her own birth in and escape from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain; she betrayed all wives, daughters, mothers, and girls in general by consistently excusing her husband’s unrestrained sexism, misogyny, and abuse of women that became a shocking and unprecedented hallmark of the 2016 presidential campaign season. She openly plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech and blamed it on an unheard-of staffer. Then she tried her own hand at dirty politics by pretending to want to address “cyber bullying” even as her husband ripped women to shreds on twitter.
It will be such fun to see these people take themselves down.