Sunday, October 16, 2016

Alter Egos by Mark Landler

Image result for alter egos book markAlter Egos takes us inside the foreign policy of Barack Obama, his relationship with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and their different world views. My interest in the fractured relationship between Obama and Clinton piqued when I read the controversial book by Edward Klein "The Blood Feud", which basically comes down to representing Obamas and Clintons as two warring clans engaged in a perpetual power struggle over control of the the Oval office and the Democratic party.

The relationship between the most powerful man and the most powerful woman in the world forms the backdrop of this book, while you also get to learn why Obama's administration did different things in different places around the world. The book keeps it's focus on the foreign policy of the Obama Administration and Clinton's role as secretary of state in it.

Obama is the outsider, he moved outside America when he was little, and spent his formative years in SE Asia. He looks at the US as the global policeman and has a similar views on China, living in tiny nations like Malaysia and Indonesia provided him with a unique prospective on hegemonic states. Obama learnt that states like China, USA and Russia are feared and hated by the rest of the world. He wanted to change that perception, his foreign policy indicated/indicates his world view. Obama reached out to Cuba, struck a nuclear deal with Iran, reached out to several smaller nation in SE Asia which are threatened by the communist oligarchy of China, and pulled out troops from Iraq believing that US has no right to interfere in foreign lands. Obama was not always the dove, he did authorize dozens of strikes in Pakistan, took out the Libyan dictator Gaddafi and sent Bin Laden packing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

JFK's Forgotten Crisis by Bruce Riedel

Image result for JFK's Forgotten Crisis by Bruce RiedelBruce Riedel is an US expert on South East Asia. Mr Riedel has also served in the Obama White House, where he acted as an adviser to the POTUS on Afghan and Pakistan. He is known to be fair and un-biased and also partially responsible for Obama's tilt towards India. In this book, the author analyzes how John F Kennedy, who was POTUS during the 1962 Sino-India war responded to the crisis in Asia, along with handling the even bigger crisis of nukes being placed in Cuba.

I have often wondered at why did India and China go to war? Two ancient civilizations, both colonies of the British and both had leaders like Nehru and Mao at the helm. I often hear the phrase "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai" which literally translates into "Indians and Chinese are brothers" originating in 1950's. How did the situation deteriorate to such an extent that they went to war and that even after almost 40 years after the war George Fernandez(Defense Minister of India during NDA rule) declared China as our No.1 enemy. I have heard different things from different people, starting with of course Dalai Lama.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The China Pakistan Axis by Andrew Small

Image result for the china pakistan axisChina and Pakistan is the most underrated and under-reported partnership of the last 5 decades. Mutual enmity with India brought these two close together and now China and Pakistan have such strategic investments in each other, that the failure of one can lead to the collapse of the other.

On the surface these two states are driven by ideology. Pakistan by the ideology of the Arab religion, Islam and China by the German Philosophy of Karl Marx, Communism. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Pakistan is not an Islamic state but a mercenary state, who has survived on war, charity and misfortune of others. Pakistan has never stuck to its Islamic principles but coerced Islam for money every step of the way. China, on the other hand is an oligarchy, controlled by the rich and the elite. Democracy is absent, freedom of press and dissenters are brutally suppressed. Rather than focus on equality and redistribution of wealth, which are the core communist principles. China has focused on imperialism and hyper nationalism. China has a brutal human rights record starting from Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong to its own Muslim dominated province Xinjiang. 

Both China and Pakistan has overlooked each other's hypocrisy. There is a saying in Hindi "Chor Chor Musera Bhai", which is quite apt in this scenario...

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens

Image result for the missionary position hitchensThere are two types of intellectuals in this world. The first, is the intellectual for plebeians, who can speak eloquently, explain complex things to us in simple terms and never seem arrogant. The second, is the intellectual for patricians, those who study Hindu Mythology, quote Greek philosophy and when generally they appear on TV or you tube make us look like neanderthals.  This book is written by an intellectual of the latter pedigree. The indomitable Christoper Hitchens.

Image result for christopher hitchens books

On Hitch's passing away, Sam Harris, one of the leading intellectual lights of our times said about Hitch "The man had more wit, style and substance than a few civilizations I could name". Hitch was an Atheist. He fought his entire life against the evils of religion and theocracy. Hitch made a career out of going after the sanctimonious. In this book Mother Teresa comes under his fire.

Hitch describes Teresa as a religious fanatic, whose religious zealous fervor did more harm than good. Staunchly anti-abortionist, Teresa proclaimed on many occasions how abortion is a sin in the eyes of the all powerful god. Teresa also used her position among st the believers to further strengthen the position of the church and the pope. Teresa and the pope were often ready to look the other way when they were being supported by a dictator if it was a Catholic dictator of course.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas by Edward Klein

Image result for the blood feud the clintons vs the obamasIn the recent democratic presidential nominations, one could see that Obama came to support Hillary only after she had won the presidential nomination. One also wonders would Obama have supported Hillary the way he does now had it not been for Trump's vitriolic speeches on Obama and his administration. I guess in Obama's mind he had to choose the lesser evil. 

As an outsider to American politics, I had no inclination of the animosity between the Obamas and the Clintons. It all started back in 2008, when both camps attacked each other bitterly over the presidential nomination. Bill, the playboy, master politician, had his eyes set on the prize; he would rule the office through proxy; of course his wife was her own man/woman. She would bitterly fight her husband for control, along with being a feminist she was also ambitious, she wanted to be the first female president of the USA. She had spent plenty of time as a senator and fought through the shame of Bill's indiscretions, but before this family tussle could ensue, enter a charming community organizer who was supported by the left wing of the Democratic Party. Obama defeated Hillary and Bill, not without having virulent exchanges. Bill called Obama another Black candidate and Obama called Bill a racist. In the end Obama came out on top, defeating the most powerful couple on the planet. Obama had ample support from her wife Michelle,"who wore the pants in the family". Another X factor is Obama's camp was Valerie Jarrett the woman who ran his campaign and was most close to not just Barack but she was/is best friends with Michelle. Valarie during Obama's 8 years in office virtually ran his government. The centrists in Obama's camp knew that Clintons were too powerful to be kept out of government and that it will be difficult to run the govt without them, they wanted Hillary as Secretary of State. Michelle and Valerie fought this idea tooth and nail. In the end Barack made Hillary Secretary of State. It was like having Kejriwal as PM and Modi as Dy. PM

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood

Image result for The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert ThorogoodThe incorrigible, Detective Inspector Richard Poole is back. We last met him in the sublime "A Meditation on murder" He is also the star of the TV show Death in paradise, the book is based on the characters from the same show, written by the sane author.

Plot Summary: Polly Carter is a world famous super model. She is currently staying in Saint Marie with her twin sister, Claire, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair to move about. On one fine morning Claire wakes up to find her famous sister sitting in the drawing room and smoking. Claire and Polly never had a cordial relationship, but on that morning Polly looked distinctly perturbed with Claire. Polly ignoring Claire's caretaker Sophie, pushes her to the outside lawn to have a word with her invalid sister.

Soon, Sophie witnesses an argument between the two sisters. She watches Polly pushing Claire from the lawn towards the cliff. Sophie runs after them, when she reaches the end of the cliff, she sees Claire a little distance away from the edge of the cliff still ensconced in her wheel chair, but Polly is missing!  She walks towards the edge of the cliff and sees Polly lying dead on the floor below. Polly has committed suicide.

That is the only logical conclusion. No one else was on the cliff, Claire is paralyzed from waist down she could not have pushed her sister. So, it could only have been a suicide, but then what is Richard Poole doing investigating a suicide? Poole is sure this was a murder but he has three problems. Who did it and how? and the bigger problem of his mother visiting him on Saint Marie.