Wednesday, March 30, 2011

West Asia Military Interventions

Read today about the US commercial-military arrangements with West Asian governments. West Asia and the Middle East are the biggest customers of Amercian military equipment. Between 2006 and 2009, it sold about 50 billion dollars' worth of weaponry to the region. The Obama administration had notified the Congress earlier last year of purchases worth 100 billion dollars slated for 2009 and 2010.

The buyers of American military exports: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE - all of the areas currently in the throes of mass demonstrations. Deals run into billions of dollars, even in the smaller states like Bahrain. Saudi Arabia signed a deal last year with the US worth around 60 billion dollars.

The US has major military bases in the Middle East. Amongst them, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait are key bases.

In the course of the uprising in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has sent in a thousand armed troops, with 500 additional troops from Qatar, under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The premise of the military intervention, this time to quell the demonstrations and protests, is the protection of oil investments. Bahrain is ruled by the Khalifas, a Sunni family in a Shia-majority country. The country is, as conceded by a former American general closely involved in the region, the best ally the US has. It hosts one of the most important US naval bases.

In 1994, in the face of popular demonstrations organized by the opposition to demand democratic reforms in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia had intervened as well.

Saudi Arabia has seen demonstrations by its Shia minority in the past, one of which was brutally suppressed. The last major protest to have taken place in the kingdom was in 1979, when a radical group took over the main masjid in Mecca. The state is completely undemocratic. It has no municipal elections (the round slated to have taken place earlier in the year got cancelled), the king appoints the 150-member parliament. He recently announced new unemployment and housing benefits worth billions of US dollars in the face of latent public "rage".

A conference was held in London yesterday. Other than the Western powers, Qatar is the first Gulf country to recognize the Libyan National Council based in Benghazi. Gaddafi's statements relating to the conference are incoherent. Rebel forces approached Sirte but retreated due to heavy shelling from pro-government forces lodged in the area. Qatar has been approached to sell Libyan oil.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reactionary

This afternoon at the university, a student group organized a discussion called "Imperialists, hands off Libya!" The accompanying graphic on the poster depicted a cartoon image of the American President sniffing oil fumes.

The news reports today speak of the approach of the rebel forces toward Gaddafi's hometown. They plan to move toward Tripoli. An interior government minister in the capital has denounced the western alliance's military intervention as a violation of the Security Council resolution. He says that the interventionist coalition forces are clearly taking a side in the civil conflict, contravening the no-fly zone imposition. Yesterday, a report announced Italy's decision to approach Germany on the evolution of an exit strategy for Gaddafi's govenment, the provision of exile in their respective territories, the incorporation of the Arab and African Unions respectively in the emergence of a post-conflict dialogue.

A US general and a Canadian general, the operations commander of the coalition, still speak of the overwhelming relative military strength of the government's forces. The rebel forces are seen in paper clippings, brandishing arms propped on vehicles and victory signs, moving cohesively across and beyond eastern oil towns.

The US Secretary of State spoke candidly at a press conference yesterday about the lack of clarity on the issue of the duration of the intervention. She did, however, clarify that the US is acutely aware of how "expensive" a prolonged military presence can be.

What is a military intervention? The rhetoric in India has been consistently and conveniently noncommittal. When the UN resolution was announced, the ministry of external affairs declared India's abstinence from the vote. It said that India did not deem it legitimate to meddle in the internal conflicts of a sovereign country. A few days prior to the notification of this noble sentiment, a newspaper spoke of the interaction between Gaddafi and an Indian envoy in Tripoli, and the prospect of cooperation in Libya's oil fields after the quashing of the conflict. This meeting took place at a time when Gaddafi's forces had obliterated key rebel strongholds and the possibility of Gaddafi's returning vengeance seemed very real.

The rhetoric of non-intervention, of "sovereignty", betrays a lack of understanding of the nature of the putative "internal conflict". The rebellion referred to so glibly in the latter category was initially a civilian protest that coalesced into an armed revolt, pitted against the military vanguard of a nearly four-decade-old dictator, who, in the event of having undermined his own army, used strategically-instituted armed forces and militias to extirpate citizens.

What kind of internal conflict is it, when the power of the oppressor so overwhelming and unhesitatingly obliterates the protest of the oppressed?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blue Valentine

Stayed awake till 5 in the morning yesterday, watching Blue Valentine. What a beautiful movie! Dean is an amazing, beautiful character. I felt very moved by him, but identified more strongly with the frustration of Cindy.

The montage of the "young" and "old" scenes makes a pertinent point. The transition of a relationship as it moves from one experience to another, from one period to another, is very difficult to chart. Once a relationship has settled into the daily humdrum of everyday wrangling, you tend to forget the start, the initiation, the beginning of the journey - a beginning that is hopeful and exciting and full of immense potential.

The deterioration in this relationship appears to be of the inevitable kind. It's partially the result of mutual misdirection - the fact that you expect your partner to be a certain way, to fulfill a certain role, irrespective of the fact of your knowing each other's sensibilities. You hope, you expect, you demand a certain kind of person, a person you may not identify with the guy whose presence and spirit and joie de vivre you loved in the beginning.

Dean's last appeal is absolutely beautiful. As he walks away in the end, his daughter senses an imminent loss. She follows him. The pragmatic manner of Cindy's retrieving the child gives you an assurance of something terminal, something irreparable about the ending.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend

There is a new form of self-torture. It's called drowning in a bottle of coke in the absence of anything else to eat or drink. At such times, an irrational feeling of resentment for the world takes over. Have work to complete, but I'm hungry now and this is all there is, unfortunately.

Have an urge to write about this weekend. Interesting concerts - very interesting concerts. The electronic rock band on Saturday was excellent. They had a special sound - very difficult to encounter their kind of music in Delhi. I was absolutely taken in by the music. Lots of insane dancing and obviously, I felt completely submerged. My mind and body were dragged into a deep, rhythmic flow.

The other one this morning. I liked the country rock band. They were French, but they sang American songs too - the accent was obviously disjointed but they sang very well. The Congolese band after them was excellent. They got on stage and went immediately into their continuous, rhythmic beat. Realized that I have an African soul - loved the grooving sound. And boy, could they MOVE! Like they were possessed by a powerful dancing spirit. I have to find Afro concerts in the future - and dance. The Algerian band were good too. They had an Arabic sound, very smooth - more soporific, and yet groovy.

It was slightly excruciating to watch some guys in the audience get on stage and brandish their arms about obnoxiously - at one point, this guy completely lost it and actually took the mic. over from one of the singers. This irritated me immensely. Yet another form of self-torture: watch Delhi boys dance to rock disco-style. Thankfully, there was a garden patch at the back from where you could hear the music perfectly but not see the spectacle on stage. Felt bad for the bands. Oh, and of course, one of these boys grabbed a white girl dancing with her friends and refused to let go of her hand.