Why do modern societies need any armies ?

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“An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” Thomas Paine

Armed forces are the pride of any nation. Millions of armed men keep a constant vigil on our borders so that you and me can get along with our business of making a living and creating value added lives. From time immemorial, man has always been prone to constant bouts of war and peace. If the 19th century was dominated by the world wars and the cold wars, the 20th century just a decade into its existence has already seen armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Syria and now finally Egypt. In addition to huge losses of life and property, these wars have also altered our modern society due to a never before seen penetration of information, thanks to advances in technology.

Being a silent spectator to many of these wars from the safe confines of my home, I’ve always felt for those tales of incalculable  losses and sufferings. I have keenly observed many of these wars and found that people talk till they fail, then fight till they tire and then talk till they compromise. This has been the scenario in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In many other cases, talks or diplomacy have prevented many an outbreak of war. This leads to an important existential question. If wars don’t result in a resolution of conflict and talks do, then shouldn’t we be trying for the latter, rather than the former?

In other cases, just as what is playing currently in Egypt and many other countries like Pakistan et. al, is the fact that the army becomes an existential threat to the whole idea of a nation, when it goes beyond its mandate to protect its citizens and grab the power. Most of the time this happens because of an over ambitious army chief with an insatiable lust for power. When this happens, the country finds itself in a descending spiral of gloom and disrepair.

A good percent of a country’s GDP goes in maintaining these huge armies. Look at the case of the developing countries and potential superpowers of tomorrow, India and China and the huge amounts of money that is being spend to maintain their huge armies. Their contribution here is about 2.5% (249 billion) and 2% (119 billion) respectively of their GDP. All these amounts can be used to bolster the social spending in these nations, rather than the upkeep of a few.

It is easy to sit in the confines of one’s home and write about millions who toil day and night to ensure that we live well, work hard and have a good night’s rest. The intention of this blog is not either. When a good amount of the financial and human resources of a country is invested in maintaining a huge governmental enterprise such as an army, it needs to be structured in a way that it benefits the citizens and not the other way round.

Having a reserve force is a great idea. Compulsory military training along between the ages of 18 and 25 is even better. This would instill in the youth of a country a sense of love and belonging in addition to the advent of a disciplined and responsible society. These trained individuals would form an integral part of a reserve force that would be assembled in case of an emergency. Diplomacy should be the first step in the face of an external aggression. If it fails, the reserve force should be used to enforce peace.

In today’s world, wars are destructive, brutal and leaves a trail of devastation, hopelessness and depression. The objectives of a modern society cannot be met by killing each other in name of an idea or ideology. It doesn’t need a large standing army that gobbles up much needed capital which would have benefitted the least fortunate.

Image courtesy:  http://pixhome.blogspot.ca/2013/02/us-army-military-hd-wallpapers-armed.html

A dialogue on Iraq

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It was 2003 when President George W.Bush declared a war on the Saddam Hussein led Iraq. The war from the beginning to almost a decade was a major mess due to the intransigence of the American regarding the Arab culture. However one of the main objectives of the President Obama in his first term was to get the American soldiers out of the Iraqi soil, safe and sound. The world media which bombarded the entire population of the earth during those days with news from the beleaguered country moved on to safer pastures and the whole war was very quickly forgotten.
AlJazeera the effervescent Arab channel did an excellent followup on what is happening in Iraq now by conducting a road trip across the country through all the Kurd, Shia and Sunni areas. The documentary was an eye opener and can be viewed here.

Iraq has always been a difficult country due to its diverse, ethnic and contradictory mixture of three major sects, the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds and their infinite subdivisions. Americans when they attacked the country in 2003 wasn’t prepared for the aftermath of the post Saddam era, were in for a greater surprise as the sectarian rifts exploded into the public. The presence of the US led foreign forces and the clash of agendas and ideologies ensued that Iraq became a collateral colossal mess. The cradle of civilization now became the carcass of the 21st century.

People say Iraq under Saddam Hussein was much better as the basic amenities of life was taken care of then. He ruled Iraq with a cruel fist and he was by no means a benevolent Sunni ruler. He ensured his caste was treated well and subjugated the Shia and Kurd faction with atrocious brutality. He also turned back on his Sunni allies by attacking and ransacking one of them-Kuwait. Getting rid of him was quick, but the scars of his decades old misrule triggered a chain reaction of worst sectarian strife that nearly consumed Iraq.

FUTURE

Iraq today is in a point of no return. I can see it is very difficult for the country to stay together as one. The reasons stem from unresolved issues from the time Ottoman empire was shredded into pieces by the colonial powers and mapped for administrative convenience showing total disdain for the ethnic and cultural differences among people.

What is the way forward? I believe it is autonomy. Iraq needs to be split into a federal structure of autonomous provinces like Canada by giving due concern to the various ethnic divisions among the Iraqi people. The enormous oil wealth needs to be developed and the benefits used for the benefit of the entire Iraqi population. People needs to be put to work, roads need to be built, the militia needs to be disarmed and the country needs to find its lost awakening.

Iraq is a country blessed with a highly talented work pool. During the beginning years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, he was so good that in the late 70s, UN awarded him the award for the best administrator. Railways were built, roads and all the infrastructure that is seen today was built in the 70s. It is a pity that the wars in 80s, 90s and 2000s reduced it into a heap of rubble.

The story of Iraq is one of unimaginable tragedy. A country that looked so promising in the 70s fell like a pack of cards, totally destroyed and decimated. Will it return is going to be the question for the 21st century ?

Image courtesy: http://cdn.cyberpunx.com/g3/c7c2d5d0aa17686d2ed0e4223ed05a75/rs/War-Chaos-Propoganda/iraq-misc/future.jpg?m=1322778931

Odyssey in times of Adversity!

Everyone needs a break in life. It is tough to get one in a busy world. Sometime ago, yours truly was watching a documentary on AlJazeera channel. It showed an optimistic story coming from Greece. As readers would remember the dire economical and financial condition that Greece was in, not too long ago.

The economic recession forced Greece to agree to the austerity measure laid out by the Germany-led European Union. This austerity measures forced Greece into a big spending freeze mode, affecting lots of jobs and creating undue hardships to many professionals. It was plain dejection for many of them, especially the ones that had high paying, high profile white collared jobs.

But just as every tale has an outcome just like the attitude of the people who responded to adversities, this tale was no different. Many of them went back to their hometown far from the cities and revisited the footsteps of their ancestors by doing the best what one can do in life- farming. They went back, tilled the land and many of them enjoyed a bountiful harvest. Free from pollution, the hectic and compromising lifestyle of modern city living, they charted out a well-tested, sustainable solution to their dreams, goals and aspirations; which became defined in adversity, in a totally new manner.

Please click on the link above to watch the documentary. Adversity defines you in unimaginable ways.
Odyssey in times of Adversity!

Rise of Naxalism

Due to the IPL fracas, the news organizations in India have shown a certain laxity in the coverage of the Naxal attack on politicians in the Indian state of Chattisgarh. It is a dastardly attack, no doubts on that. But the event offers certain lessons the corruption laced Indian polity needs to remember.

Development and progress needs to be an inclusive activity to every section of the population. India being a developing country needs to understand that it is the fundamental right of every human being to avail the basic necessities of life- food, shelter and means to survive. Denying these would instigate the rudimentary attribute of every human being-one that of a beastly nature.

Today the Indian polity and media does a fantastic job of fooling the Indian society with the excreta of their misdeeds in the form of scams, scandals and loot etc. The middle class Indian enslaved to the idea of prosperity in the form of materialistic wealth and relentless consumerism, turns a pathetic deaf ear and a blind eye to this misdeeds. They are living in a make believe world. Just like the other side of a coin, the mighty Indian rich, polity and media should realize that their adversaries in the form of the downtrodden, poor and needy will not behave like their middle class counterparts.

The problem of Naxalism is a real one and a true one. If there is one thing that we can learn from the scams and scandals that plague every facet of the Indian society is that we are all adulterated with the same scum and filth. But this new found adversaries are much better than us, they are fighting for what we irresponsibly denied them and are feasting on today. That ugly battle is one we should learn to avoid as it is not a fight worth fighting for.

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Dr. Manmohan Singh: Please LEAVE!

It is 2013 and India’s shame is still in office.

In the mid 90’s when the Congress party under the leadership of Narasimha Rao was booted from office, the current defence minister of India, AK Anthony wrote a famous report on the reasons behind that debacle. In that he explains the liberalization policies of the then finance minister was the main reason for the Congress defeat. As irony would have it, years later the author of the same report is part of one of the most corrupt governments India has ever seen, led by the same person, that report defiled.

Scams after scams have reduced India’s stellar growth story into a farce. The liberalization policies of Dr.Singh did help in heralding this growth, today his mis-governance is happily extinguishing the fire of growth, leaving a young nation in disillusionment and desperation. The bureaucrat turned politician is now being derided for his silence as his friends and foes around him, happily loot the country.

Home to a billion people of which a significant majority are young and restless, India needs a better leader and can do away with the likes of this incapable, stubborn and highly inefficient farce and it is a prayer that he retires or leaves office quickly than ever.

End the Oilsands blame game

Today while returning back from my work with a reputed Canadian oil and gas company, I chanced to hear on the radio, the news segment about the Keystone pipeline and the vitriolic opposition to the project. I felt that the rising and unwanted opposition to this pipeline deserves no merit and vociferous stand taken by the environmentalists and vested interests is nothing but a sideshow.

This article of mine is straight speak and I don’t wish to write another set piece with research links thrown in. Even though I did write my Master’s thesis using the same techniques, I believe that the time has come where there needs to be addressing of the issues using simple, plain language.

First of all, 80% of oil sands lie beneath the ground and is recovered using energy propagated through drilling. Here it is the same like any conventional oil drilling setup. The images of tailing ponds adhere to the 20% of the oil sands reserve. The former involves huge capital, but least visible environmental impact. The latter involves a visible environmental impact, but the issues are being addressed with the development of technology. At present, an alternate industry exists within the purview of oil sands industry where the issues of tailings ponds are being tackled fervently. Across North America and Europe, state and private universities are being involved in some really world class research just to address the issues of tailings ponds. The progress has been slow, but the issues are being addressed diligently. The culmination of this research would help mining operations not just in oil sands facilities but other mining operations (gold, potash etc.)

Why do we need oil sands? I say we need it because we need other unconventional forms of energy to supplement a burgeoning world population. The more sources of energy the better. There is definitely an environmental impact, but we cannot do anything about it. World population is increasing due to some excellent progress in the field of medicine and the way of life. If the environmentalists are so worried about losing the wonderful gifts of nature, first work with United Nations or other NGOs to tackle the main issue of increasing world population.

Oil sands development was accelerated in the last decade due to increasing demand. It is easy to say or shout that lets kill that demand by stopping the development of non renewable resources. Ok, we stop it, what do we do next? How will the world run? Do we need to go back to medieval ages ? How will the world feed its population? These answers needs to be provided by the so called environmentalists.

Renewable energy sources are a nice to have feature that would help the developed nations mitigate some of the high demand on non renewables. But that technology is at a very nascent stage. The so called environmentalists instead of wasting and fooling the time of the public, should retire to their schools and classrooms and work their way in optimizing the benefits of renewable energy.

The past decade when the oil prices peaked saw couple of wars being fought just to secure these sources of energy. When it became evident that no one was winning these wars, the development of shale gas and oil sands happened. These developments totally destroyed the myth of Peak Oil and gave an assurance that human progress is here to stay. The impetus now should be on unlocking and optimizing the maximum potential from these non renewable fuels and thereby steer the human race forward and not to go backwards.

If President Obama decides not to go ahead with Keystone pipeline and also deny opportunities for shale gas development, please be assured that the decline of United States that commenced a while ago will be complete. Asian giants like China and India will happily receive the oil from  oilsands for the growth and prosperity of their economies. The so called advocates of renewable energy please understand that all the raw materials for this form of energy (like solar panels etc.) come from China will be scrambling to address the energy issues that tackle the very progress of their nation.

Heard the following from an oil sands veteran recently: “Oilsands was written off three times in my lifetime and it is still going strong”. Oilsands is an idea whose time has come and no force on this earth can stop its progress.