Author: Sumantra Maitra

The New Trump-ian Order

It is exhausting to write similar ledes but the subject demands special attention. The world has entered a new era, a pole was switched almost overnight, and a completely different order than the one that was followed since 1945, is upon us. The best way to know what’s coming in front of us, is by having an open and skeptical mind, particularly towards the conventional wisdom which is now emanating from the mainstream commerical media. Unfortunately, the reactions in the last couple of days, and the hysteria which seems to be the natural state of Western politics is evidence enough that the “anti-Trump/anti-Brexit” liberals are now determined to take the completely wrong and ahistorical lessons from 2016. The liberal reaction of Trump’s win is one of brokenness and despair, but worse than that, it is an open season of fake expertise and fairly straightforward misrepresentation. David Frum, editor of Atlantic, tweeted that Trump is the worst President in the history of US, including those who owned slaves. Susan Hennessey, editor of Lawfare and former NSA …

Trump, NATO and the Persistent Myths of International Relations

There’s a German word, which is useful to explain what I, and other political realists felt, after Donald Trump gave his first ever interview as PEOTUS to a British newspaper. Of course, the liberal Twitterati exploded. And yes the word is, as some of you might have guessed, schadenfreude. Most of us are not Trump supporters or fans, nor do we consider Trump to be an elegant statesman or practitioner of realpolitik. But his statements were inevitable and predicatable for anyone — barring the diehard liberal ideologues. The apparent breaking point for the Twitterati was reached when Trump called Merkel’s open gate foreign policy a catastrophe, openly siding with UK against EU with regards to Brexit, and trashing NATO as a Byzantine bureaucracy, calling it “obsolete”. How dare Trump criticise the quite obviously flawed and stagnating liberal global order? The global order paid for and secured by American taxpayers, mind you, and managed by terminally incompetent technocrats, adhering to a radical universalist ideology. How dare he invite the rage of the Davos men (as Samuel …

The BuzzFeed Fiasco Shows Us Why Trust in Institutions Is Dying

Editor’s note: this is an unfolding story based on information that the author and editor are not privy to. As such, this essay is not an analysis of the alleged incidents reported in the dossier released by Buzzfeed, but a comment on the prudence of releasing such unverified information to the public, which is not heretofore a standard media practice.    I was almost planning to turn my laptop off on a freezing English winter night, when the C4 hit my phone. A colleague texted me asking if I was checking Twitter at that moment. BuzzFeed apparently did some clickbait, and dumped raw, uncorroborated, third hand HUMINT (human intelligence) data with a nudge nudge wink wink “see what you make of it” type caveat, about Donald Trump. This material included a lurid tryst with a bevy of Moscow maidens apparently recorded by secret devices. BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith spouted some neuron altering, circuit frying justification on why he chose to go ahead in publishing this “dossier”, because apparently Americans “should decide for themselves.” (Although, the …

How Will History Remember Obama?

Ta-Nehisi Coates started the revisionism over the most divisive and controversial President in post Cold war history, as Ta-Nehisi Coates is wont to do. Which is unfortunate, because Obama, for good or for bad, deserves a fair, objective, non-linear analysis of his record, and a certainly more nuanced look than the partisan hagiographies that are currently emerging. President Obama, the first biracial leader of the free world, and one of the most gifted extemporaneous speakers of our time, is a textbook example of a young, professorially cynical, cautious, but overall idealistic young leader who was eventually chastened by time. Coates’ essay is a start in what will be the repeated partisan glossing of the legacy of an interesting character, but one who was eventually defeated by personal naiveté and the structural forces that resided outside of his control. He deserves a more thorough scrutiny than terribly worded think pieces focusing on nothing other than one single defining factor, his race. I remember when Obama stood as a smooth-talking Senator against Hillary Clinton in 2008. My rookie journalism …

No, the Syrian Civil War is Not Like Jews fleeing Nazi Persecution

It is a cynical obfuscation and hypocritical false equivalence to equate the Middle East now with Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution before and during the Second World War. It is a ploy, one carefully constructed to hammer the reasoned arguments against mass-migration from the Middle East and endless military intervention into submission. The latest in this long rhetorical trope was written by Rula Jebreal, in Foreign Policy. In an article predictably overdosing on appeals to emotion, she starts off by proclaiming that she’s reporting from the Syrian-Lebanese border, “a mere 150 KMs from Aleppo”. (That’s almost like being in Belgrade and reporting about Srebrenica, if you get what I mean). She then continues to hand-wring about how terrible Assad is and ends with this curious statement: Our generation looks back today and asks how the world could have allowed the horrors of the Nazis. In Syria, we have found the answer, and history will judge us harshly for it. Well, no. History, will judge a handful of career pundits, falsely equivocating on human tragedies and advocating perpetual …

Cut Out The “Literally Hitler” Hysteria

So, the unthinkable happened. The tyranny originating from boring old Blighty, now spreads to heartland America. Armed marauder gangs now roam the streets, murdering, pillaging, plundering, violating constitutional rights of people who voted, as Hunter-Killers buzz in the night sky looking for any remnants and pockets of rebel resistance. Millions of liberals, especially celebrities, are now leaving Western shores in a mass exodus just like the Second World War actresses who left Nazi Germany to settle in California. But there’s hope. A small bunch of rebels, armed to the teeth with playdohs, colouring booklets, chocolates and hashtag “#LiterallyHitler” are now determined to take the fight to the Trump camp. The “International Community” is now in talks over whether we should arm the moderate rebels, promote “real liberal democracy” and/or otherwise form a transitional government abroad, possibly headed by Jessica Valenti and Amanda Marcotte. With a cabinet formed of the editorial board of Vox and Guardian. Or at least that’s what you might think if you’re an alien (from outer space, not Mexico) following the emetic …

The Restart of History and the Russia Question

Two Schools of Thought We have a policy paralysis in the West with regards to Putin’s Russia. Recently, two essays “The Cold War is Over” by Peter Hitchens and the “Realism We Need” by Edward Lucas both agreed that Putin is a tyrannical despot, as any sane individual would. They both accept that Russia is a wondrous country with incredible contribution to global literature and culture, and Russians as people are exceptional, as do I. Anyone who disagrees with this, needs to get their head checked. They however differ on the causality of Russian revanchism, and prescribe completely opposing policy to counter this threat. In his essay, Hitchens, unlikely a Realist himself in the academic sense of the term, agrees with a basic Realist explanation of the causation of Russian revanchism in Europe, and squarely blames it on NATO expansion, Eastern European colour revolutions as well as democracy promotion and liberal hegemony. He also suggests that the Cold War is over, and there’s no need to rush into another rivalry with Russia and renew a …

Reappraising Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’

Not so long ago I became acquainted with a young Swedish undergrad, next to my workplace at my University, where I had just started my doctoral research. When Sweden and Germany were boiling over the issue of mass sexual assaults — mostly perpetrated by groups of migrant youths — something led me to talk about Samuel Huntington with my young Swedish friend. This friend, normally very liberal and tolerant, somehow became extremely agitated, and said, everything about Huntington was racist and colonial and supremacist. And ideas like his should be banned across universities as they would be a threat to impressionable late teenagers. I was a bit taken aback by such an over-the-top reaction at the mere mention of the name of a philosopher, controversial though he was. I only read later (to my utter bemusement) that this type of reaction is the latest fad in a certain section of Euro-American academia, and is called “being triggered”. (This is where a section of people try to censor or ban the mere mention of seemingly inconsequential and regular …

Merkel’s Meaningless Mea Culpa

Unchecked migration and Merkel’s mea culpa Angela Merkel is apologizing. Not for her policies, but for a whole lot of other things. She’s sorry for losing control of the refugee crisis, sorry for not preparing enough, sorry for her party’s losses in Germany. After staggering losses of social Democrats to far right parties both in and around Germany, the usually Teutonically stoic Chancellor is sorry, but also not really sorry. Not once did she mention that her policies were inherently flawed, and that her blatant disregard of history has resulted in the highest nativist backlash and destabilization in European societies since the 1930s. In a press conference Merkel said that she and her government made mistakes in how they handled their refugee policy. Over a million migrants turned up because of Germany’s liberal “open door” policy, most of them male, able bodied, (and a lot of them not even from war zones). The German chancellor’s call of “we can manage this” prompted thousands to cross the freezing Mediterranean, paying their life savings to people smugglers …

The Paradox of Democracy

Jason Brennan’s lengthy and provocative essay on democracy, is a follow up to his book and it challenges the foundational wisdom of our time, that democracy is good and moral. I hesitate to spoil the book so early at this stage, but democracy according to Dr Brennan, is inherently flawed, and that’s not because people are stupid, or misinformed, but they lack the incentive to know. In simpler terms, this data rich book shows that people who vote, take their voting rights for granted, and essentially cheer their side or team, without understanding the nuances of such momentous decision making, which affects everyone’s lives. Everyone under the sun opines on politics and economics, unlike neurosurgery and astronomy; even though politics and economics are also highly specialised areas which require knowledge and consideration. Brennan looks at data collected over a sixty year time-span, which suggests that most of people who take part in political process wouldn’t pass a University Politics or Economics 101 course. Nor are they even interested in understanding or knowing how basic taxation, …