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Kashmir drifting in cross-currents of regional politics

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KashmirWatch

Kashmir is drifting in turbulent cross-currents of the regional politics in South Asia, a highly dreary situation, unfolding itself in a fast paced mode, making it imperative for anyone who indulges in journalistic pursuits of sorts, to speak out his mind and stated stand point, not with a view to pontificate, but to inform public opinion in performance of one’s conscionable public duty.

I venture to break the eleven month hiatus of silence self imposed of course for various reasons, and, draw public attention to the crises looming large on the horizon. I have never viewed the Kashmir problem as an unfinished agenda of the great divide of Indian Sub-continent in 1947. In my book [ KASHMIR ENIGMA ENTANGLE STRANDS ] I painstakingly expatiated that the provenance of the Kashmir Enigma were laid down by the British strategists in 1707 and not 1947 as is the popular perception. After taking a second hard look at the situation, I still find my adherence to this stand point.

1707 A.D was the period of revival of high caste Hindu Nationalism and British, were invited by the propertied class of High Caste Hindus to subvert Mughal Rule in India. It was agreed that when British depart from the Indian Sub-continent, the mantle of power will be passed on to the propertied High Caste Hindus, who would resurrect the Unified India of Ram Rajya era. Elimination of Pakistan as a State is compatible with the ideals of Hindu Nationalism.

The interim resolution of this conflict of ideals is the ideation of a federal SAARC on economic basis, with common market, common currency, common defense and common forums on regional basis for the resolution of interse territorial disputes. Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh’s strategic asseveration that Indian markets shall be opened to SAARC countries, translated into explicable parlance means that domination of the economies of the SAARC countries, by the pre-dominant and ascendant Indian economy that would gradually lead to the exclusion of rival China from South Asia and will corrode the pretentious sovereignty of the SAARC countries.

The only stumbling block in the pathway is Pakistan, that for its own existential reasons, willy nilly, has how to align with China. I am of the firm view, that U.S and China, shared common perception to dust U.S.S.R from Afghanistan since 1978, and, the Jihad against U.S.S.R was funded in a vast measure by China, through the conduit of Pakistan Army.

The second limb of my thesis is grounded upon the speculation that the Pakistan Army was never totally dependant on U.S military assistance. Mr. A.Q. Khan the Pakistani nuclear scientist should be in a position to corroborate my speculation that actualization of Pakistani nuclear ambitions and surrealistic dreams had the tacit financial approval of China. My own financial difficulties prevented me from visiting China and Pakistan to verify the actual facts. I honest to goodness, wanted to meet Late Mr. Z.A. Bhutto, then facing a murder trial to obtain his version of the scenario. I applied to Amnesty International Indian Chapter for permission to observe Bhuttoe’s trial. The request was disregarded and I tendered my public resignation from Amnesty International Kashmir Chapter as founder member. This explains why I can only characterize my view point as a speculation.

However, this speculation, leads, to still another illation that since 1978 itself U.S.A and India reached a tacit understanding that the radicalization of Talibans for fighting Jihad against Russians would inevitably lead to clericalisation of the Pakistan polity. That would in turn lead to distrust of U.S and Indian policies towards Af-Pak region.

The Indians had a nostrum to this menacing scenario. Down right at the birth of Pakistan in 1947 itself the Indian National Congress adopted a policy of supporting Baluchi and Pushtoon Nationalism. Khan Abdul Gauffar Khan and Dr Khan Sahib at the public request of Sardar Patel then voicing the sentiments of Indian National Congress boycotted 14th August 1947 Celebrations. Gous Bux Bizenjo and other ultra nationalist Baluchis, who had a personal rapport with Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, [Patron All State Peoples Conference] were totally averse to the idea of a theological State of Pakistan. The ambiguities of the Durand Live made it possible for successive Nationalist Governments in Afghanistan to support the idea of Pukhtoonistan. Russian financial support ably fuelled the fires of Afghan Nationalism. The scenario is vividly characterized by Anthony Arnold in his book Afghanistan, the Soviet Invasion in perspective in these words:-

“…..In the spring of 1955, Afghan mobs were permitted if not encouraged by the authorities to tear down the flag from Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, and from its consulates in Jalallabad and Kandhar and to loot these establishments. Pakistan promptly withdrew its ambassador, suspended Afghanistan’s transit privileges, and unleashed its own mob-violence against Afghan businesses and officials in Pakistan. The border remained closed for five months, until the United States finally prevailed on Pakistani’s to allow transit of US aid materials and equipment to Helmund Valley. The United States turned down as impracticable, however, an Afghan request to build over a thousand miles of highway through Iran to give Afghanistan an alternative route to the sea.” Unquote In my view now a reversal of situation has morphed. The killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabd did not elicit any reaction from President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. The million dollar question is why? What about Viladmir Putin? His studied silence is eloquent. It was Bin Laden who organized Jihad against U.S.S.R in 1980. The reason is obvious. First and foremost, Russia now has been able to persuade the Islamists in Russia that they should delink themselves from Al-Qaeda. Russia in fact is turning a blind eye to the Russian Islamists getting financial support from other sources.

Now Moscow realizes that there is a present a nexus between India and U.S.A to fuel Pushtoon Nationalism, and, fund the Taliban to raise a direct insurgency in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

This is the only plausible explanation why USA has overtly by passed Pakistan and continued negotiations with Talibans. If Talibans delink themselves from Al-Qaeda and form a government in Afghanistan the USA will support the idea of Pushtoonistan.

In the aftermath of such a situation, the U.S will be able to withdraw from Afghanistan by the year 2014. The upshot of this discussion is that Pushtoon Nationalism is now getting direct succour from India and U.S.A. The situation is to force Pakistan to federate with India at least for defense and foreign policy matters, in the name of bringing stabilization in Afghanistan. In such a dire situation, Russian and the China now have a joint interest to collaborate with Pakistan. Sergi Rogov, the Director of Moscow based institute for [U.S and Canada studies] has cautioned that avoiding this strategy will jeopardize Russian interests in Central Asia. There is reason to believe that both Russia and China would like to delink Indian – U.S.A policies in South Asia. The best way to achieve this objective is to open an Islamic insurgency in Kashmir. This theory has to some extent the support of Russian think tank led by Ruslan Ghereyer of [North Caucasus Centre of Islamic Studies]. His comment on the killing of Osama Bin Ladin was succinct in say:-

“…..The liquidation of Bin Laden will have no impact on terrorism in the world and still less in North Caucasus: on the country, it will open a Pandora box of extremism.” He in a mood of sub-audition has in fact cautioned that the Pandora Box of extremism is to be opened in Kashmir Valley. Revival of militancy in Kashmir will be fully supported by Pakistan Army. The Russians will encourage the Chinese to take the burden of Kashmiri Islamic insurgency so that the attention of USA is diverted and it is prevented from devising further strategies in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Water scarcity in Pakistan will force army to forestall any federating strategy with India even on the economic front, not to speak of defense and Foreign affairs. However, granting MNF status to India is a smoke screen.

It is my perception that water scarcity in west Punjab and the changing Russian stance towards Afghanistan and Central Asia will open up the way for Pak-China defense pact coinciding with the rise and revival of Islamic insurgency in Kashmir. The prospects of Kashmir future are bleak and dreary indeed! The downing of a NATO Helicopter with thirty eight U.S special operation group by Taliban using Rocket fire shows direct involvement of both Russia and China in arming Talibans. In the back drop of this intense hugger-mugger, India fully well knowing, the internal situation in Pakistan, that shows, that at present Pakistan is severely caught in the coils of a ferocious turbulence, the genesis of which stems from the demands for re-organization of States in Pakistan on ethnic and linguistic considerations. India is also aware that the overwidening hiatus between Pushtoons and Mahajirs in Karachi, has become unbridgeable, as three hundred people were killed in this blighted city in the deadliest month of July 2011 still invited Hina Rabbani Khar the young Foreign Minister of Pakistan for intense parleys. Such a meeting was inevitably bound to prove a non-sequitur.

Full credit goes to Hina Rabbani Khar, the brilliant, dashing smart and stylish youngster from the jetset sybaritic family of Khars, who with a broad smile, completely flummoxed the ageing old Geezer Mr. S.M. Krishna. He in his nervousness could cobble up together some incoherent, pretentious, high flown, high sounding words, more suitable to a fawner, assuring the Foreign Minister of Pakistan about India’s sincerity towards “Pakistan Integrity.”

The parleys were full of platitudes, and a lot of words were scattered higgledy piggledy about the resolution of Kashmir dispute. The two high powered executives agreed to obvious procrastination.

Hina was able to achieve her target, as procrastination should now enable Pakistan and China to announce formally about a defense pact. They are not announcing it, as they expect Iran to join them soon within a year.

A new regional situation is emerging in South Asia. It is in the interest of Pakistan and China to push the Kashmir issue to the back burner to divert attention from the construction of a huge dam in Gilgit by the Chinese P.L.A.

Indians have no answer to these questions of new emerging regional formations in South Asia. They vainly hope Pakistan would implode, but China has already shored up Pakistan. Indo-Pak parleys have shown that true politics is after all the end game of crass crackpots. This is the lesson which history teaches us.

Rebel Government Opens Libyan Embassy In Washington

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Washington — The Libyan Embassy in Washington officially re-opened Thursday under the control of the Transitional National Council, a senior State Department official and the new Libyan ambassador told CNN.

Ali Aujali, the former Libyan ambassador to the United States, was formally accredited Thursday as the head of the Libyan mission.

“This is a message that Gadhafi can no more rule Libya,” Aujali said in a phone interview. “The recognition of this embassy under the leadership of the TNC is a clear message to the regime the U.S. recognizes the council and they recognize the new Libya.”

Calling the re-opening of the embassy “a great day for Libyan-American relations,” Aujali said “the Libyan people appreciate this very much.”

The move also allows Aujali to regain control of the embassy’s frozen bank account, worth about $13 million. Aujuli said he talked with State Department officials Thursday about the Obama administration’s efforts to help the TNC gain access to some $30 billion in frozen Libyan assets.

In March, the State Department ordered the embassy closed and expelled diplomats loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Aujali had resigned his post as the regime’s ambassador to the United States in February and has since represented the opposition in Washington.

The United States on July 15 recognized the rebel movement based in Benghazi as Libya’s rightful government.

The re-opening of the embassy comes amid internal strife in the rebel movement. Libyan Transitional National Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil has dismissed the rebels’ 14-member executive board following the death of the rebel government’s military commander, Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis, on July 28. But concerns have been raised that the mysterious assassination of Younis might have been carried out by feuding rebel groups.

NATO has been bombing Libya for more than four months under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians from troops loyal to Gadhafi. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was shuttered and American personnel evacuated by sea and air in late February after the revolt erupted.

Libyan and U.S. officials held face-to-face talks in Tunisia last month, but Washington says the sole point of the meeting was to repeat its demand that Gadhafi “must go.”

Independent Incredible India Celebrates Corruption

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By Nick Langton

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ascends the ramparts of Old Delhi’s Red Fort on Monday to address the nation on the 64th anniversary of its independence, it will be as a political leader whose government, party, and personal reputation are seriously bruised. This will be Singh’s seventh Independence Day address since becoming prime minister in 2004.


Although Prime Minister Singh continues to be regarded as a man of personal integrity, the scandals on his watch have raised serious questions about his leadership. Photo: Flickr user World Economic Forum.

The speech is an opportunity to review his government’s achievements during the past year, highlight national challenges, and outline a vision for the future. At no point in Singh’s tenure, the longest of any Indian prime minister except Jawaharlal Nehru, has he or his party seemed so embattled.

The immediate problem is a string of high-level corruption scandals that has wracked the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. A year ago, Singh devoted one line of his Independence Day address to the issue of corruption, stating that government programs should be managed “more effectively, minimizing the chances of corruption and misuse of public money.” His reference to systemic corruption gave no hint of the grand corruption that would surface in subsequent months. First came charges of favoritism and kickbacks during preparations for the October 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which led to the arrest of organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, a Congress Party stalwart. Next was the Adarsh Housing Society scam where the government was accused of irregularities in allocating expensive apartments in downtown Mumbai. The most debilitating blow was the 2G spectrum scam in which the now jailed telecommunications minister, A. Raja, was charged with under pricing licenses at an estimated cost to the government of a staggering $40 billion in lost revenues.

Corruption scandals are hardly new in India, but the scale of the alleged transgressions is unprecedented and public reaction strong. In April, veteran Gandhian activist Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike demanding that the government establish a lokpal, or ombudsman, office with broad powers to investigate corruption. Although Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) movement has been criticized for its tactics, middle-class following, and alleged partisan bias, it raises widespread public concerns that cannot be ignored. The corruption debate has paralyzed parliament for months, with the political fallout spreading both within and outside of the UPA. In late July, in a move to protect its own credibility, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) removed its powerful chief minister in Karnataka, B.S. Yeddyurappa, on charges he misused his influence to allot valuable mining land to his sons.

Although Prime Minister Singh continues to be regarded as a man of personal integrity, the scandals on his watch have raised serious questions about his leadership. A technocrat not known for his skills as a political street fighter, he is often at the mercy of competing interests, including those within his own Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi. Since the UPA government holds only 262 seats in the 552-seat Lok Sabha, it must piece together support from an on-again-off-again collection of allies to retain a majority. The government’s actions in response to the corruption scandal have reinforced the perception of weakness. A cabinet reshuffle in July was viewed as little more than window dressing. That the draft Lokpal Bill placed before parliament last week exempts the judiciary and elected officials from oversight, including the prime minister’s office, has compounded the problem. Whether or not the legal and constitutional arguments for the bill’s construction are valid, it is a public relations debacle. Anna Hazare has threatened to publicly burn copies of the draft and begin a new fast on August 16 if the government does not withdraw the current bill.

The corruption scandals and parliamentary gridlock have also raised economic concerns. Capital expenditure dropped during the first quarter of 2011, a possible sign of reduced investor confidence. In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Singh cited India’s relative success in avoiding the global economic slowdown. He noted high inflation as a challenge, especially for the poor, but said he was confident that the government would tackle it. Economic growth has dropped slightly during the year, with the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council recently reducing its 2011-12 projection from 9 percent to 8.2 percent. While the government has been successful in bringing food inflation from a 22 percent high in February 2010 to 8.3 percent today, overall inflation hovers around 10 percent. This is above the government’s target of 5 percent, which is considered a safe threshold level if the economy is to avoid overheating.

In response to financial jitters following Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating last week, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asserted that India would not be affected because its “fundamentals are strong.” But how strong are they? Despite a robust growth rate, industrial production slowed during the past year, and the government has not made progress on reforms in the energy, land, and education sectors that are needed for India to maximize its advantages, such as the “demographic dividend” from a growing workforce. As finance minister in 1991, Manmohan Singh played a historic role in unleashing the economic transformation that India has undergone during the past two decades. As leader of a weak coalition today, he seems unable to push through the second generation of economic and governance reforms that would help to secure his own legacy as a transformational leader.

While Prime Minister Singh’s speech on Monday is unlikely to outline bold new initiatives, it provides an important opportunity for him to candidly address the nation’s challenges and outline his personal vision. To some extent, India’s economic growth and continuing rise as a global power are inexorable given the current momentum, but riding the wave is not enough. Long-term growth that is stable and inclusive requires effective leadership and good governance. Corruption scandals during the past year and parliamentary dysfunction have hindered the ability of Prime Minister Singh and the UPA government to drive needed reforms, especially as coalition members begin to eye elections in 2014.

India’s Nationalists vs Separatists

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In a rather peculiar demand, the opposition BJP on Wednesday sought the resignation of Home Minister P Chidambaram for Tuesday’s police action on its youth wing workers in Delhi. The party stalled Parliament on the issue, and sensing an opportunity to play the nationalist card, asserted that the UPA government had allowed separatist elements to congregate in the Capital while it “brutally” cracked down on those who raised the issue of corruption.

Though the main opposition party stalled both Houses – which drew criticism from the CPM with its leader Brinda Karat terming the stalling of Rajya Sabha as a “joint operation” of the BJP and the government – sources said the demand for the resignation or sacking of Chidambaram was mere posturing and the party would allow Parliament to function on Thursday.

Chidambaram wanted to give a statement in the House and he conveyed this to Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and his deputy S S Ahluwalia when Chairman Hamid Ansari met them in his chamber in the morning. But the BJP was not willing to listen to a statement “prepared by the Delhi Police”, and insisted Chidambaram offer his resignation.

Three killed in India land protest

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Three people have been killed after the police fired on a group of protesting farmers on a highway in western India.


Land acquisition is a highly sensitive issue in India

More than 20 policemen were injured in the clash which took place on the highway connecting the cities of Mumbai (Bombay) and Pune on Tuesday.

The farmers were protesting against the proposed diversion of water from a local dam to factories in the area.

The police said it fired after protesters turned violent and refused to lift the blockade.

Reports said that thousands of farmers had gathered on the busy highway to protest the planned “diversion of water” from the nearby Pavana dam to the industrial township of Pimpri-Chinchwad.

The farmers say there would be a scarcity of water for farming and drinking once the proposed pipeline cutting through farmlands is built to supply water to the factories.

They also fear that their land would be acquired by the government to build the pipeline.

The police said the protest became violent after a meeting of the protesters on the highway.

“After the meeting got over, they started hurling stones at policemen and damaging police van. We had decided not to use force but when the farmers got violent we had no option but to open fire,” police officer Sandeep Karnik was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper.

The Pune demonstrations are in a series of protests in the country over attempts to acquire land for industry or infrastructure development.

In May two policemen and a farmer were killed in northern Uttar Pradesh state after protests against land acquisition by the government turned violent.

In August 2008 at least four farmers were been killed and 50 others – including policemen – injured in clashes in a suburb of the capital Delhi.

The farmers were demanding compensation for land brought by the government.

Correspondents say acquisition of land for the expansion of cities and industrialisation in India has become a very sensitive issue as about 65% of the population is dependent on farming.

According to law, government can requisition any private land for a “public purpose”.

For India’s prime minister, corruption refuses to stay ‘at arm’s length’

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NEW DELHI – Like an honest man surrounded by thieves, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finding that his own reputation for personal integrity is proving hard to maintain.

India’s Parliament has been in uproar this week as the opposition demands that Singh answer accusations that he deliberately turned a blind eye to rampant corruption within his cabinet and party.

The damage to his reputation is significant and is only going to get worse, political analysts say.

“It doesn’t suggest he had his hand in the till,” said columnist and broadcaster Karan Thapar. “But it is either negligence, a lack of vigilance, or he was aware and deliberately turned his eye in the other direction – which is perilously close to complicity.”

The main charge is that Singh was in the know when then-Telecommunications Minister A. Raja gave away valuable telecom licenses for dirt-cheap prices in 2008, cheating the exchequer of up to $40 billion.

Singh even wrote to Raja at one point asking him to adopt a fairer system of allocating the licenses. After his advice was brushed aside by the now-jailed minister, Singh asked to be kept “at arm’s length” from the process.

The prime minister’s office says Singh was merely keeping his distance because he did not want to be seen as favoring any particular company, while Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari says Singh was guilty of nothing more than trusting a colleague.

Others say the prime minister just needs to explain himself better. Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s former media adviser, blames “incompetence” in the communications team at the prime minister’s office since Baru left.

But there is no denying that Singh’s image has been dented.

The prime minister is also accused of ignoring warnings from his ministers about rampant corruption in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, for which games organizer and former Congress stalwart Suresh Kalmadi has been jailed.

Abroad, Singh’s reputation soars above most of the world’s political leaders, for his humility, integrity and intellect. President Obama calls him a good friend and says “the whole world listens” when Singh talks. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and an Egyptian presidential challenger, once described him as “the model of what a political leader should be.”

But at home, cartoonists show Singh drowning in a sea of corruption. Forbes magazine may have ranked Singh the 18th-most-powerful person in the world, but political analysts in India wonder whether he controls even his own cabinet.

“He has let himself down, and he has let the people of India down,” said historian Ramachandra Guha. “He appears weak and indecisive . . . and he is seen as lacking authority to implement his own decisions.”

Critics say Singh, who holds an unelected position in the upper house of Parliament, lacks political credibility within his party by virtue of never having won a constituency seat in India. But the soft-spoken, almost timid economist-turned-politician also lacks the deftness to survive in the rough and tumble of Indian politics, commentators say, and the ability to forge alliances within his rowdy coalition and with the opposition.

He was also dealt a poor hand right from the start, when he was nominated as prime minister in 2004 because Congress leader Sonia Gandhi did not want the role – a convenient frontman for a party that remains deeply divided and corrupt.

Then, after elections in 2009, Singh appeared to have had little role in the formation of his cabinet, as coalition allies demanded – and received – particular ministries in return for their support.

“They chose portfolios where everybody knew you could make money, where discretion was involved and massive investment was taking place,” said Bharat Bhushan, editor of the Mail Today newspaper. “The PM was never his own master.”

Singh will always have a place in history as the finance minister who ushered in sweeping reforms in 1991 that unleashed the Indian economy’s potential and set the stage for two decades of growth.

But that record has arguably also been tarnished in the past year as the government drags its feet over a second round of economic reforms the country still desperately needs, as the economy slows and inflation runs rampant.

For now, Singh, 78 years old and the survivor of two heart bypass operations, is likely to continue as India’s leader until elections in 2014, partly because he has no serious challengers from within the Congress party, analysts say. But as one leading magazine proclaimed in a recent cover story on Singh, the latest allegations may represent “The End of an Aura.”

Understanding the ‘Christian fundamentalist’ label

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Given initial suspicions that Friday’s bombing and mass shooting in Norway were carried out by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda, the way police ended up describing the suspect behind the attacks came as a big surprise even to many security experts: The alleged attacker was called a “Christian fundamentalist.”

But experts on European politics and religion say that the Christian fundamentalist label could overstate the extent to which the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik – who has told authorities that he carried out the attacks – was motivated by religion, and the extent to which he is tied to a broader religious movement.

“It is true that he sees himself as a crusader and some sort of Templar knight,” said Marcus Buck, a political science professor at Norway’s University of Tromso, referring to an online manifesto that Breivik appears to have authored and which draws inspiration from medieval Christian crusaders.

My Take: Norway attacks shows terrorism isn’t just Islamic

“But he doesn’t seem to have any insight into Christian theology or any ideas of how the Christian faith should play any role in Norwegian or European society,” Buck wrote in an email message. “His links to Christianity are much more based on being against Islam and what he perceives of as ‘cultural Marxism.'”

From what the 1,500-page manifesto says, Breivik appears to have been motivated more by an extreme loathing of European multiculturalism that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world, and of the European Union’s growing powers, than by Christianity.

“My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight,” to his political views, said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. “It is a signifier of Western culture and values, which is what they pretend to defend.”

“I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian,” Romarheim said in reference to what appear to be Breivik’s views.

The manifesto is religion-obsessed in that it rants for long stretches against Muslims and their growing presence in Europe.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

It calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism and execute “cultural Marxists.” The manifesto includes a link to a video asserting that the majority of Europe’s population will be Muslim by 2050 “unless we manage to defeat the ruling Multiculturalist Alliance.”

The author of the document identifies himself as Breivik, but CNN could not independently verify that he wrote the document, and Norwegian authorities would not confirm that the man in their custody wrote the manifesto, saying it was part of their investigation

Opposition to booming Muslim immigration to Europe, exacerbated by high birth rates in the Muslim community, has become a mainstay of Europe’s burgeoning far-right, helping right-wing parties gain seats in parliaments across the continent.

But those right-wing movements are mostly secular. Europe’s hard right does not have deep ties to Christianity in the way that the United States’ conservative movement is entwined with evangelical Christianity and other theologically conservative religious movements.

A far-right comeback in Europe

Recently adopted European laws aimed at curbing Islam’s public visibility, including France’s new burqa ban and Switzerland ban on minarets – towers that a part of mosques – were secular causes, not ones championed by Christian interests. Many Christian groups oppose such bans.

“The bulk of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not against Muslims as such, but is a secular rejection of how some Muslims allegedly want to place Islam at the center of society,” Buck said. “It is more anti-religious than anti-Muslim.”

Breivik’s apparent manifesto, by contrast, cites biblical verses to justify violence for political ends.

“Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve,” it says. “It’s God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time.”

“The biggest threat to Europe is the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist political doctrine of ‘extreme egalitarian emotionalism,'” the manifesto goes on. “This type of political stance involves destroying Christendom, the Church, our European cultures and identities and opening up our borders to Islamic colonization.”

The video that’s linked to in the manifesto also includes some religious language: “Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Experts on religion in Europe said those faith-infused views are likely peculiar to the suspected gunman and do not appear reflect wider religious movements, even as they echoes grievances of Europe’s right-wing political groups.

“He was a flaky extremist who might as well have claimed to be fighting for the honor of Hogwarts as for the cause of Christ,” said Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies global religion and politics, describing the suspected Norway attacker. “He did not represent a religious movement. … People should not follow that Christian fundamentalist red herring.”

At the same time, Breivik told investigators during interviews that he belongs to an international order, The Knights Templar, according to Norwegian newspaper VG, which cited unnamed sources.

He described the organization as an armed Christian order, fighting to rid the West of Islamic suppression, the newspaper said. He also told investigators he had been in contact with like-minded individuals and said he counts himself as a representative of this order, it said.

For many in Norway, the potential implications of the suspected killer’s religion are still settling in.

“This is the first time we’ve heard of Christianity/religion as a driving force behind right-wing extremism,” Buck said. “The mainstream right-wing movements in the Nordic countries (very small and disorganized groups in Norway) would generally point to the Old Norse beliefs, if anything.”

“Norwegian, Nordic and European society,” he said, “were totally unprepared for a violent attack from someone who calls himself Christian.”

Bizarre twist in the case of ex-IMF President Dominique Strauss by Eric Margois

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Mon dieu! The head spins. Crazy things happen in New York, but the latest bizarre twist in the case of French bigwig Dominique Strauss takes the cake.

Last Friday, US prosecutors revealed that the hotel maid who had accused former International Monetary Fund chief Strauss-Kahn of raping her in his hotel suite was a serial liar. She had lied about being raped to get into the US, lied on her tax returns, and lied on numerous other issues. It is unprecedented for prosecutors to discredit their own star witness. The government may have done so because of rumours that the defence, which had assigned a number of crack investigators to check into the maid’s background, was about to go public with the embarrassing information.

Strauss-Kahn (universally known as DSK) has now been released from house arrest under which he had to pay for an armed guard to watch him. His costs to avoid being locked up in New York’s ghastly prison gulag, Riker’s Island, was said to be $100,000 weekly. US prosecutors say they will still proceed with the case. So will the maid’s damage-seeking civil suit. But legal experts here say DSK is likely to be acquitted now that his accuser has been exposed as a liar and fraudster.

This incredible circus puts the US justice system on trial before the eyes of the world. The Wild West frontier arrest and treatment of DSK, the lynch-mob mood and his public humiliation make the US look like a nasty third world state. Getting the scalp of a famous Frenchman, not justice, was the goal of US prosecutors.

The judicial near lynching of DSK humiliated France. DSK was expected to win next year’s French presidential election. France’s current President, Nicholas Sarkozy, is highly unpopular with the public and looked almost certain to be defeated by DSK, if he had decided to quit as head of the IMF and run as the Socialist presidential candidate.

Until last Friday, France’s Socialists appeared doomed to defeat. Their assorted candidates induced sleep and yawn, not cheers of support. Sarkozy must have thanked his lucky stars when DSK was arrested on sordid charges that shocked and horrified France.

But now, in an amazing reversal of fortune, DSK may actually beat the wrap in New York and return to France. The able Christine Lagarde has replaced him at the IMF, relieving DSK the decision of staying on there or returning to French politics. France’s left is beyond elated by the impending collapse of the DSK trial. Not only have the ruinous charges against him been exposed as lies, but DSK may well emerge from the legal ordeal as a martyr. All France noted the dignity and courage with which DSK and his wife Anne Sinclair bore their public humiliation and the threats of 30 years in prison.

So if Strauss-Kahn escapes the legal quick sands in New York, he could quickly return triumphant to France and begin campaigning against President Sarkozy.

Many French will be convinced that their first impression after DSK was arrested – that he was victim of a nefarious political plot or financial shakedown – was correct. The finger of suspicion will point at those who could have benefitted from his humiliation and conviction.

If the chambermaid episode was indeed a plot, it was conceived and executed with great skill and daring. DSK’s notoriety as a satyr was artfully used to draw him into this honey trap. Paris has long been abuzz with tittle-tattle about his sexual escapades in private and public. We see the handwork of professionals. Angry feminists who claimed the maid was a victim of male sexism and oppression will be rightly embarrassed. Those males who claim that women are prone to untruths and fanciful accounts will feel vindicated.

More important, the US prosecutors who allowed this circus to occur should be fired and sent to North Dakota. America’s justice system is embarrassing and desperately needs to be elevated to civilised standards.

The skirt-chasing DSK is an unlikely model, but he may end up teaching the US a lesson in civilised behaviour and judicial caution that it badly needs.

How America will collapse in the near future a

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A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America’s downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington’s global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America’s global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way, roughly from West to East” and “without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.

No such luck. Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world’s second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America’s current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.

By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington’s last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China’s global network of communications satellites, backed by the world’s most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.

Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d’Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy’s prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China’s economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.

Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65 percent of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.” Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America’s closest economic partners are backing away from Washington’s opposition to China’s rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama’s Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”

Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington’s wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council’s own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.

Economic Decline: Present Situation

Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar’s privileged status as the global reserve currency.

By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11 percent of them compared to 12 percent for China and 16 percent for the European Union. There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.

Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400 percent increase since 2000. A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” during the previous decade. Adding substance to these statistics, in October China’s Defense Ministry unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.

Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010. The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened. By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.

Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy,” observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world’s central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”

Simultaneously, China’s central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”

Economic Decline: Scenario 2020

After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world’s reserve currency. Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.

Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace. Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.

Oil Shock: Present Situation

One casualty of America’s waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America’s gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world’s number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century. Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global future.”

By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world’s natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”

Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP’s sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.

Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise — and sharply at that. Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources. The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports. Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36 percent of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66 percent.

Oil Shock: Scenario 2025

The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock. By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill. Angered at the dollar’s plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a “basket” of Yen, Yuan, and Euros. That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further. At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan. Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran’s exploitation of the world largest percent natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.

Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China’s new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman. Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.

With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025. All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region — logistics, exchange rates, and naval power — evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12 percent of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.

The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.

Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.

Military Misadventure: Present Situation

Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.

Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.

Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014

So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.

It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.

Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.

Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America’s Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.

World War III: Present Situation

In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American “lake.” Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain’s global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.

With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing’s official Global Times responded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”

Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.

To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance. Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones — reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.

Last April, the Pentagon made history. It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet. The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.

World War III: Scenario 2025

The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.

It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand’s operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China’s 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits. The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.

As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware’s devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.

A New World Order?

Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.

As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.

Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic. They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.

As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order. At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.

In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.

In “Planet of Slums,” Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up. He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make “the ‘feral, failed cities’ of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”

At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.

Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region — Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.

All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.

If America’s decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.

If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high. Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country’s role and prosperity in a changing world.

Europe’s empires are gone and America’s imperium is going. It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain’s success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns as head of IMF

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Strauss-Kahn, who is facing charges of sexual assault and attempted rape, denied the allegations in his letter of resignation


Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as head of the IMF

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, saying he wanted to devote “all his energy” to battle the sexual assault charges he faces in New York.

The IMF’s executive board released a letter from Strauss-Kahn dated 18 May, in which the former managing director denied the allegations against him and went on to say that it was with “infinite sadness” that he presented the board with his resignation.

“I think at this time first of my wife – whom I love more than anything – of my children, of my family, of my friends. I think also of my colleagues at the Fund; together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more.

“To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.

“I want to protect this institution which I have served with honour and devotion, and especially – especially – I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence.”

His resignation comes after increasing international pressure for him to step down as he faces charges of assaulting a hotel employee at a New York hotel. The maid, a 32-year-old immigrant from the West African nation of Guinea, told police that the 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn came out of the bathroom naked, chased her down, forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear before she broke free and fled the room.

Strauss-Kahn, who is currently being held in New York’s Rikers Island prison, is to make a second application for bail on Thursday in New York with is his lawyers set to offer new bail terms including $1m in cash and to place their client under house arrest.

A judge rejected his initial plea for bail agreeing with prosecutors that he was a flight risk.

A grand jury has now been convened to assess whether Strauss-Khan will be indicted. Their decision will not be known until Friday. The decision to press for bail ahead of Friday’s decision suggests lawyers are urgently trying to free Strauss-Kahn from Rikers where he has been held since Monday. If he is released on bail, the deadline to secure an indictment would be extended.

The IMF’s statement late on Wednesday said the process of choosing a new leader would begin, but in the meantime John Lipsky would remain acting managing director.

Several potential candidates to replace Strauss-Kahn have already been suggested, although none have yet indicated that they are interested. These include French finance minister Christine Lagarde, former Bundesbank president Axel Weber, and Kemal Dervis, Turkey’s former minister of economic affairs.

The IMF will hold a vote among its member countries to choose the next managing director. The US has the largest share of voting power, with 16.7% of the total votes, followed by Japan with 6%, Germany with 5.7% and the UK and France with 4.85% each.

To win, a candidate must attract 85% of the votes. Critics say it allows Washington and the leading European nations to control the process, so that that IMF is always run by a European in return for an American citizen at the head of the World Bank.

This status quo could be now be challenged, though. On Tuesday China, which holds just 3.65% of the voting power, said the selection of the next IMF leader should be based on “fairness, transparency and merit”.

Brazil’s finance minister Guido Mantega reitered this point on Wednesday, arguing that was important that the selection process is based on merit, rather than on nationality. Brazil, which is an important, fast-growing emerging economy, has just 1.38% of the voting power – less than Belgium or the Netherlands.

European leaders have reportedly been lobbying to maintain their grip on the IMF. German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated on Monday that she favoured another European at the helm of the IMF.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

May 19, 2011 at 8:43 am