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Sturgeon's House

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows: India/US Edition


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If you're interested in speculation on high-level, Machiavellian international maneuvering, I highly recommend the China Matters blog.  The post linked is one concerning Narendra Modi, the new Indian head of state.


The long and short of it is that Narendra Modi is either a Hindu nationalist, or at least a fellow traveler.  In my completely objective and unbiased assessment, Hindu nationalists are a bunch of creepy fascist assholes.


The China Matters author isn't the only author with this opinion; see for example this piece from The Economist pre-election, which states that remaining with the checkered, corrupt, but decidedly not-fascist establishment is the safer choice for India, and this post-election analysis of one of his speeches made in the US.  Times of India gets in on the action too, continuing the theme of "dog-whistle politics" in Modi's speeches.


Naturally, the leadership of the United States is pleased as pie to be hanging out with this guy who is, if quite some distance from being literally Hitler, definitely a very shifty character.


(Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is excoriating the ugliness of racial prejudice vis a vis the Ferguson riots.  This is proof that politicians are not actually people and cannot self-reflect.)


Why on earth would the liberal US countenance such a man, much less trumpet his legitimacy?


Because China.  The US needs India, even India under dubious leadership, in its hastily-assembled counter-China Pacific Alliance.  Whether this will work, and how the US will reconcile this with its existing alliance with Pakistan, remains to be seen.

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American foreign policy these past six years has been rudderless to the point that it makes George W. Bush seem almost Churchillian in comparison.

I am being very kind and circumspect here but it seems the Administration is more interested in style over substance. By meeting with the leader of India it looks like they're doing cool President stuff. Besides, it's all a distraction from social engineering here at home.

In short it is the Cadillac Escalade of diplomacy, lowered with the oversize spinner wheels, ground effects and obnoxious sound system blaring, oblivious of what the other foreign heads of state think. It doesn't matter that it is high-centered and stuck on a speed bump because they all about that swag.

The unfortunate thing is the other players in the game have a good read on our President and have been acting accordingly.

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I don't know that elected politicians have much effect one way or another.  Does anyone remember how Bush II initially ran on a platform of "humbler foreign policy" in contrast to the ambitious nation-building programs undertaken by the Clinton Administration?  Fast forward three years and "neocon" is shorthand for "panders to the religious right, but also engages in ambitious nation-building programs."


It's almost as though politicians say whatever they think will get them elected, proceed to get elected, then find out that they are completely unqualified to do the job they were elected to do, end up having civil servants write all their policy and legislation for them, but take credit for it because they have enormous egos and no self awareness.

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I don't know that elected politicians have much effect one way or another.  Does anyone remember how Bush II initially ran on a platform of "humbler foreign policy" in contrast to the ambitious nation-building programs undertaken by the Clinton Administration?  Fast forward three years and "neocon" is shorthand for "panders to the religious right, but also engages in ambitious nation-building programs."


It's almost as though politicians say whatever they think will get them elected, proceed to get elected, then find out that they are completely unqualified to do the job they were elected to do, end up having civil servants write all their policy and legislation for them, but take credit for it because they have enormous egos and no self awareness.


To be fair, even doing that it's still a tremendously stressful job. I see it more as Pratchett's sacrificial princes. Executive politicians are in this really shitty position where everyone expects results they can't provide because they don't have the power to do so, nor the competency, nor the will. They are used up and then thrown away for public spectacle.

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What? You'll go a runnin' off to that half-mad German git? He'll be too busy talking to trees! Why I have more Royal Blood in my left gonad than the entire Royal Family put together!

No, I'm serious! Given that I'm related in a round about way to King Edward IV (the most battle winningest, sex havingest of the English monarchs) and the recent paternity issues that have cropped up after the discovery of Richard III.

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Relevant to the US and India and China as mentioned in the thread, just to mention one regarding Chinese/Russian/Indian/USA relations, let's settle the score.


Contrary to popular belief, China actually distrusts Russia far more then the US despite what certain media outlets and uninformed people would have you believe, and infact China and Russia back during the time of the USSR had several small scale conflicts and diplomatic rocky patches, and by contrast, several incidents where the US actually aided them and tried to open relations to fuck with the USSR. China and Russia may trade tech and sell to each other alot, this isn't because Russia suddenly liked China, rather tolerate them because they'd rather try to get their favor to fuck with the US (and the west in general) who they dislike far more and also want more stable and transparent relations with them, doing this puts China in a bind to sort of be neutral to both parties, even though Russia has been seen as a much bigger threat since the times of the USSR.


How does India tie in? well, China and India rather severely hate each other, (this is a big part of the reason why they're so close with Pakistan.), and China also hates Japan, distrusts South Korea, Tolerates North Korea sometimes because they make a nice buffer state, is often in tension with various countries in southeast asia and Oceania, but, unfortunately, with the exception of North Korea, these are countries the US has positive invested interests in so they can't really do much,by force or by diplomacy.


So, to sum it up, Russia and China are only sort of friendly, because they're nearby and getting favor with them hurts the US and the west, China distrusts Russia but builds up a modernized military to defend itself and its assets in the pacific and mainland and to make sure Japan and Korea don't try anything, and also because they hate India, who the US is trying to make friends with in a political juggle as seen in the original post, the US sees China as a threat, and although they could be, they trust the US more then Russia ironically, and....well, the politics of the far east are mostly just a clusterfuck.


Hows THAT for strange bedfellows? Oh, and just to make it a bit simpler, the only thing I changed from his original statement to add all these factors? I merely added the USSR/Russia to it.

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As the documentary "Red Dawn" even states, we had 600 million screaming Chinamen on our side.

Americans have been bred for decades to view everything as a bilateral conflict of us versus them, good versus evil, white hat against black hat. NATO vs Warsaw Pact in the Cold War, Allies vs Axis, North vs South, Redcoats vs Continentals. We have a two party system of politics that pits Republicans vs Democrats. Our favorite pop culture movies follow the same theme (Star Wars, Avengers, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings).

Now to be fair to 'MURICA, this isn't a trait found just in ourselves but has permeated Western culture for centuries (Crusades, Napoleonic Wars, Reformation) and is no doubt a result of our collective Judeo Christian worldview.

Nor is it surprising that "sophisticated" terms like Byzantine and the alleged Arabic proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" are ascribed to foreign races from the "Orient".

Conflicts with multiple and competing factions are a clusterfuck. As one of you said, one need only look at the belligerents table on the Syrian Civil War Wikipedia article.

Getting back to Asia, it is difficult to make heads, tails and middles out of the 21st Century edition of The Great Game, with China, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, the other Stans, Myanmar, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines all thrown in the mix. The latter four entities are what I personally care about. And now that UBL has achieved room temperature, Afghanistan has zero strategic value (contrary to popular opinion) and should have been vacated two years ago.

I'm somewhat more pessimistic on the longer term. China is building itself to be the regional hegemony, reversing five centuries of decline. If I were a neighboring country without a nuclear program I'd be very concerned. Even if I were a country like India, I'd be looking to rapidly mobilize given the number of border incursions committed by the ChiComs.

As for the US we are at (or past) the transition stage where we are so confident that no one will mess with us (and our friends) because our military is so Skookum. Instead we are relying on the logic that surely it wouldn't be in the best interest of China to start a conflict, why we're trading partners and we owe them so much debt.

As we've seen throughout history, countries often act illogically, irrationally and in ways that are counter to their GDP when it comes to foreign policy. If our economy gets hurt twice as much as China's as the side-effect of a trade/shooting war, isn't that a net win for the People's Republic?

To end this meandering length of text, I'm always for being militarily prepared, a show of force being cheaper than actually using force in the long run. Plus it allows us nerds a chance to drool and debate over new airplanes, tanks and ships.

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- snip -


What we sometimes forget about human beings is that we're relative creatures.

For example, people are far more interested in relative rather than absolute wealth. As in us, so in our institutions. Hence, it can be entirely sensible and rational to tank your own economy just to make sure that the other guy's tanks even worse.


I think most of the powers in the new great game (barring, as you point out, the US) understand this.

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The United States has been culturally trained for decades now to regard the use of nuclear weapons as completely anathema to civilized behavior. Similarly the loss of civilian lives will draw a disproportionate response from our government in terms of how far they will go to ensure no harm comes to the civilian population. In doing so we do seem to have projected these ideals our fellow governments.

I wonder sometimes whether countries like a China or India - with significantly larger civilian populations - are as risk adverse?

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Numbers of people don't matter nearly as much as how many things you have to put under a pie cutter to destroy the country's infrastructure, and I'm rather confident the nuclear club has had that made quite clear to them. I don't think China has had rhetoric about killing x million with nukes not being enough because the remaining y will be able to fight and win because it's not a matter of killing a given number of people, it's drawing circles on a map that just so happen to correspond with all the brightly colored bits on a population density map and be centered on the things it takes for a nation with urbanization to keep a supply of the machinery and foodstuffs it needs to keep eating.


Plus it turns out that getting nuked breaks expensive things, and it'd be a huge hassle to make major economic reforms and get rich just to have to do it again.

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