Pakistan’s new army chief

Will be selected in the next week or so. This is a useful historical background and contemporary overview from Dawn of how the COAS is selected and who the current candidates are:


A Nehruvian turn of phrase

I’m heavily using Nehru’s Letters to Chief Ministers for my book, and occasionally I come across quotation gems. Here is one from April 1953 discussing a jaunt through the Northeast:
“these tribal people whom I like so much, even though sometimes some of them are troublesome” (Vol 3, p. 277).

It captures both Nehru’s genuine respect for and enthusiasm for the Northeast, and his perplexed reaction to their inconvenient demands for various things, both themes which carry throughout his writings on the region.

Max Weber on Donald Trump?

“Vanity is a very widespread quality and perhaps nobody is entirely free from it. In academic and scholarly circles, vanity is a sort of occupational disease, but precisely with the scholar, vanity–however disagreeably it may express itself–is relatively harmless; in the sense that as a rule it does not disturb scientific enterprise. With the politician the case is quite different. He works with the striving for power as an unavoidable means. Therefore, ‘power instinct,’ as is usually said, belongs indeed to his normal qualities.

The sin against the lofty spirit of his vocation, however, begins where this striving for power ceases to be objective and becomes purely personal self-intoxication, instead of exclusively entering the service of ‘the cause.’ For ultimately there are only two kinds of deadly sins in the field of politics: lack of objectivity and-often but not always identical with it–irresponsibility. Vanity, the need personally to stand in the foreground as clearly as possible, strongly tempts the politician to commit one or both of these sins. This is more truly the case as the demagogue is compelled to count upon ‘effect.’ He therefore is constantly in danger of becoming an actor as well as taking lightly the responsibility for the outcome of his actions and of being concerned merely with the ‘impression’ he makes. His lack of objectivity tempts him to strive for the glamorous semblance of power rather than for actual power.

His irresponsibility, however, suggests that he enjoy power merely for power’s sake without a substantive purpose. Although, or rather just because, power is the unavoidable means, and striving for power is one of the driving forces of all politics, there is no more harmful distortion of political force than the parvenu-like braggart with power, and the vain self reflection in the feeling of power, and in general every worship of power per se. The mere ‘power politician’ may get strong effects, but actually his work leads nowhere and is senseless. (Among us, too, an ardently promoted cult seeks to glorify him.) In this, the critics of ‘power politics’ are absolutely right. From the sudden inner collapse of typical representatives of this mentality, we can see what inner weakness and impotence hides behind this boastful but entirely empty gesture.

It is a product of a shoddy and superficially blase attitude towards the meaning of human conduct; and it has no relation whatsoever to the knowledge of tragedy with which all action, but especially political action, is truly interwoven.”

Weber, “Politics as a Vocation”

Threat Perception

Below I wrote a post about how America’s militias fall into an ideological “gray zone” in the eyes of the federal security apparatus. Richard Evans’ The Coming of the Third Reich provides another example of how a heavily-armed radical group can be seen as unsavory but tolerable; there is a deep ideological basis to threat perception. On Eugen von Knilling and his Bavarian People’s Party in Bavaria:
“As many moderate conservatives were to do later on, Knilling and his allies felt that the Nazis were a threat, and disliked their violence, but considered that their heart was in the right place and their idealism only needed to be used in a more productive and healthy way. So they, too, were relatively tolerant of the Nazis’ activities.” (pp. 189-190).

School burnings in Kashmir

A campaign of school burnings is under way in Kashmir. This is not quite as simple a phenomenon as it might instinctively appear. This piece by Arif Ayaz Parrey helps us understand why. A reader may of course disagree with various of his claims, and I suspect the average Indian reader will most decidedly do so. But it’s necessary reading to make sense of contemporary Kashmir.

It’s also a reminder that Kashmir is not just a playground for media narratives from Delhi, but in fact has a lot of smart people who write smart, provocative things that deserve to be read. Indeed, one of the most striking things I’ve noticed is that many Kashmiris separatist intellectuals view the whole Indian national debate as tangential, even orthogonal, to what they view as the key political questions at stake. Too often, Kashmir is reduced to NC or PDP politicians on Barkha Dutt’s show talking about autonomy and human rights, to be chastised by security hawks and the Hindu right talking about national unity, jihad, and Pakistan. Reading what non-cable-channel Kashmiris have to say beyond these lenses is not much work, yet done surprisingly little.