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13 July 2010


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Ken Bakshi

A great summary and commentry by Brig. Ali.
Not as a student of military history, I fail to understand why the world poitical leaders of today fail to learn from the past history. Right from the route of British in Kabul during British in India times, complete failure of American misadventure in Vietnam, despite the boasting of general Macarthur; the failure of Russia, despite modern military might ending in losing face in Afghanistan, politicians of America and England keep persuing the same policy. President Obama won the elections on promise of a CHANGE, soon fell in the hands of the bureacrts Of his administaration. Anglo-French wars were fought for a century. In our times, I foresee another century of American led struggle in Afghanistan. There never will be an end to tribal rule in Afghanistan. My crystal ball tells me, American and allied forces will be limping away from Afghanistan for good. The absence of white nation forces from soil of Afghanistan will automatically end the strife, while Karzai will find shelter in some other part of the world. It will also bring relief to Pakistan, whose economic recovery is destined with cooperation and friendship with India.

Ken Bakshi, Lindsay, ON.

Gautam Das

Col. Lang,

Maybe you can forgive this Dalrymple, since he lives for most of the year in New Delhi, India, and only buzzes off to England and Scotland for the two hottest months of the year, and is probably not gloating over l'affaire Glencoe.

I sympathise greatly with the Scots in their distaste for the Redcoats and their Scottish supporters, but this one writes only too well to be put to the broadsword yet. I have sung 'Scots wha hae . . . ' with feeling with my Scots friends in Edinburgh, so while with you generally, am putting in a plea for this particular Dalrymple (whom I don't know personally). But do what you will to the Campbells.

BTW, I was saddened to note that they don't serve haggis at The Tartan restaurant in Boone, NC, just below Grandfather Mountain, where you hold your Highland Games. Told them so, but they were a little dazed to be told this by a brown man.

Gautam Das

Patrick Lang

Gautam Das

If I were "the Lang" or even more improbably, "the Macdonald," you would be adopted into the tribe.

This Dalrymple writes beautifully and is, after all, a papist.

We were associated with Macdonald of Glencoe, and left to avoid the oath of allegiance to be taken at Ft. William.

The Langs of the Great Glen went to to Meath and Louth for a hundred years and then to North America, pl

Gautam Das

Thank you, Colonel,

for the magnanimous offer of adoption into the clan. I appreciate that.

Possibly the NC Scottish restaurant was at a place called Blowing Rock, and not Boone. It had a Highland Games Assn. office next door. Anyway the MacDonalds have already conquered most of the world (barring Afghanistan), and are lovin' it.


Gautam Das

Patrick Lang

Gautam Das

Alexandria, Virgina where I live now was founded by a combine of Scottish merchants as some sort of colonial project. The Alexanders are still present here. We have Highland Games. my wife likes what she calls "throwing the telephone pole." pl


Clan Crest Dunbar - courtesy of www.scotclans.com

here's our clan's crest

Charles I

Thanks very much, FB. Nice, depressing work.

John Waring


The above link amply demonstrates William Dalrymple's extraordinary erudition.

clifford kiracofe

Anent the Dalrymple article Walrus brought to our attention, one friend to whom I emailed it replied:

"a very realistic assessment. Hope it will be read in the White House and the European captitals."

My colonel friend served as a military attache for a (Continental) European country in Iraq for a time and is frequently out and about in Afghanistan these days...

Gautam Das

Brig Ali-Sb,

A masterful exposition and a rivetting read, as always.

Re 'war that the Generals don't want to end and the politicians don't know how to end'.

The domestic politics of the USA and its effects on Afghanistan policy-making apart, the FIRST and most important step that the US political establishment COULD take, is to make just ONE change to the current new Afghsn Constitution - make it necessary for the Provincial Governors to be ELECTED by the people of their own province. The US has enough clout (the purse-strings) to force the calling of a 'Constitutional Amendment Loya Jirga' which could make this amdt.

Failing this, any other Afghan President will probably be no better than Hamid Karzai, maybe worse.


Gautam Das

FB Ali


Thank you for your kind words.

I'm rather pessimistic about the results of the step you propose ‒ or, for that matter, any such steps. Afghanistan is too broken for any easy fix. It will take a long time after the war ends for it to become a functioning country again.

A pleasure to see you on the blog. Regards.

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

The most depressing thing in your latest essay here is the news that "the traditional tribal structures" have been destroyed." pl

Sidney O. Smith III

Dalyrmple, imo, is one of the best writers in the world, bar none.

And I know of no more appropriate title than Age of Kali, although I still have a difficult time distinguishing Kali from Durga. Satyajit Ray‘s film, Devi, helped me somewhat. Actually the genius of Satyajit Ray helped me a lot.

But the underlying meaning of the Age of Kali would seem to have a universal application. Not altogether convinced the West is ready for that kind of experience. Mother Teresa apparently experienced a reflection of that kind of despair but never wavered. Amazing. Strange, at least to me, but the deeper we go into the age of Kali, the more I look to Mother Teresa.

Re: Scottish. I recently discovered, much to my surprise, that my fiancee’s great (3x) grandmother is Isabella Burns Begg -- Robert Burns youngest sister. Now that’s Scottish high cotton.

And lo and behold, as I write this, she is at a family reunion that includes two older Scottish relatives who decided to take a trip over. The family reunion is not in the Highlands of North Carolina but the low country of SC, near the Holy City. One of the Scottish relatives I believe is in her 70’s and was a professor at Glasgow. I was told she converted to Catholicism a few years ago, much to my surprise. Maybe it was Dalyrmple’s writing, maybe she was getting ready for the Age of Kali, whatever, but she is an extraordinary woman and loves Scotland.

Brig. Ali, if you read this, I have always wondered what your insights are to Benazir Bhutto. I never was able to get a handle on the Bhutto family and your insights and experience educate us all.

Babak Makkinejad

Sidney O. Smith III:

For the Chinese, Koreans, and Indians of this world the Age of Kali looks pretty good. For once in more than 5 generations things are going well for them.

FB Ali

Sidney O. Smith III,

You pose a question that is not easy to answer adequately and yet be brief. Perhaps the best I can do at short notice is to quote excerpts (edited) from a couple of posts I made on another blog in March 2007 when the topic of the Bhuttos came up.

ZA Bhutto was a complex, brilliant yet deeply-flawed person. I did not know him personally, even though our paths crossed at fateful occasions in both our lives. He has left several legacies, and these play different roles in Pakistan's politics.

There is the impact he left on the ordinary people of Pakistan
(he was the first politician to make such people feel that he was devoted to their interests).

There is the legacy of Bhutto, the modern wadera(feudal landowner) who believed in his God-given right to rule, and be obeyed and served. This is the legacy assumed by Benazir, and displayed during the two occasions she was in power. It is what is now driving her to achieve power again by whatever means are necessary. I doubt if she will let such nebulous considerations as democracy and liberalism stand in the way of pursuing her goal.

There is the legacy of Bhutto, the romantic, who believed in democracy, socialism, liberalism, the rights of the people, the welfare of the poor. This is the legacy that was assumed by
(some politicians who do not figure any more in the People’s Party of the Bhuttos).

It is true that Benazir Bhutto is a tough and courageous woman, who has undergone much hardship in her quest for power. But that is only part of the story. The other side is what she did as prime minister. She and her husband looted Pakistan with both hands. She also once used to proudly claim that she was the "mother" of the Taliban.

Sidney O. Smith III

Brig. Ali

Thanks much for the posting on the Bhutto family. It confirms almost all the secondary sources I have read.

One spring many years ago and totally by happenstance, my path crossed with a member of the Bhutto family. It was before the assassination of the father. But I tried to keep up with Benazir Bhutto’s career since that time.

Hence the question. And now I know.

I have thoroughly enjoyed not only your “strategic intel analysis” but also your sharing insights into Islam as well.

Sufism is what piques my interest and has for a good while, but that may have to do more with my myers briggs type.

Babak Makkinejad:

You are right. I exaggerated. All those nations you mention are taking some important lessons from the West. I sometimes believe they appreciate the immense cultural treasures of the West more than some Westerners.

Did you catch Dalrymple’s exquisite wit in the article Walrus referenced? Here is the quote from Dalrymple’s article.

It was Anwar Khan Jegdalek's ancestors who inflicted some of the worst casualties on the British army of 1842, something he proudly repeated several times as we drove through the same passes. "They forced us to pick up guns to defend our honour," he said. "So we killed every last one of those bastards." None of this, incidentally, has stopped Anwar Khan Jegdalek from sending his family away from Kabul to the greater safety of Northolt, Middlesex.

Humorous, no?

If the Age of Kali, metaphorically speaking if you prefer, dawns on us, then odds are good it will involve Iran. I am not altogether convinced Iran, like the West, is ready for that kind of experience.

Babak Makkinejad

Sidney O. Smith III:

Thank you for your comments.

I do not subscribe to the Hindu notions of Ages of mankind.

And specifically regarding Kali Yuga, there seems to be different ideas about its start and duration; one view holding that Kali Yuga began 5500 years ago and will continue for another 428,000 years. So, we have been living in Kali Yuga for millennia. Is it then any wonder that all works of man have degenerated?

But, from a Chinese perspective, one could argue that Kali Yuga came to an end for them in 1982 - it began in 1700s.

I doubt that non-Western people understand, care, or appreciate much the so-called Jewels of Western Civilization. My impression has been that their interest in purely instrumental.

That is, they want to learn and adapt the instrumentalities of Western dominance as they find them at the present time. They do not care about the process or the origin. Now, that is understandable as they have to check and roll-back Western power, but it also will not help prevent stagnation for them once they achieve that goal.

You can see this clearly in US where foreign students from all over the world that study applied sciences (engineering, agriculture, medicine, management) , followed by a few hardy souls that pursue studies in some hard sciences (physics, mathematics, chemistry, molecular genetics).

You will not catch a Hindu or a Muslim studying Christianity and Christian Tradition, and certainly no Korean would be studying something as useless as the Enlightenment Tradition or Western Philosophy. There is almost no one from any Asian country that studies American History. One would have thought that the Iranians would have been the first to sign-up to study American History, trying to figure out how the “Great Satan” reached its greatness – however objectionable that might be in certain circles.

Babak Makkinejad

Sidney O. Smith III:

In regard to Anwar Khan Jegdalek's family location: ironic is the word.

For clearly for him and large numbers of Muslims - the West is preferable to any Muslim country that they could think of - even such countries as Turkey.

Sidney O. Smith III

Babak Makkinejad

Glad to see your return. I hope I did not offend you by applying, simply as a metaphor, the Age of Kali to Iran. If it is any consolation, and as you know, I also applied the same metaphor to the West and in equal measure. I am sure it would have upset some Christian theocrats in the West, if they had read the same.

Dalrymple’s wit, I believe, reflects a general rule I also apply, regardless of the circumstances. I never trust a theocrat, among others, unless he or she exhibits a self deprecating kind of humor. It would seem to demonstrate that such a person has the ability to look at the existential despair within and also the greatness that may lie in other cultures.

This notion is deeply embedded in traditions of the West. I believe that one prerequisite for Catholic sainthood is that such a person must have demonstrated a gentle kind of humor. And Western Jews of course can be some of the funniest people on planet earth, at least when they are not humorless theocrats.

Adherents to Sufism seem to have the same approach but such is only a preliminary conclusion.

I appreciate your insights and, at some point, I want to mention to you a modern day and relatively secular Iranian I most greatly admire. He seems to contradict almost all that you write, but at this point, I cannot say for sure. But I came across his work a few years ago. It was referenced in very glowing words by Thomas Merton in one of his relatively unknown books. But Merton sang this man’s praises to the point I said to myself, “I too must take a look”.

My knowledge of Persian culture is limited -- and I wish I knew more -- but my conclusion after reading this work was that this man was an extraordinary example of the greatness of the Iranian people. He, in my opinion, is a magnificent spokesman for Rumi, the Iranian people and Persian culture. I do not know if he speaks for the Iranian government.

Also, a bit of a side note, you made mention of Koreans not appreciating West. I am certain Neil Richardson can speak with much more clarity and knowledge about Koreans than either one of us. But the Koreans I know have great admiration for many aspects of the cultural heritage of the West, particularly European concert music. A few years ago, while attending a concert at a symphony hall, I saw tears in a Korean woman’s eyes as she was listening to Beethoven (I believe it was. She was genuinely transported listening to the music.

As for myself, while I was at the same concert, I was more interested in the Georgia-Auburn football score(I believe it was and, no, I am not talking about soccer) as that game was being played at the same time.

But I am doing my best to change and have made great strides towards appreciating concert music of the West because this Korean taught me that extraordinary Western treasure has something very important to offer to all of mankind.

That was only point I was trying to make when I made mention that some Asians appreciate the treasures of the West more than some Westerners.

Speaking of which, have you ever listened to Yo-Yo Ma?

Again, I am glad you decided to continue to comment at this website. You are a learned man and one who can inform us all. I will try to post sometime later about this Iranian man, mentioned above, who opened the door to me to the beautiful world of Rumi.

But in the meantime, I must read the Dalrymple work that Brig. Ali referenced at another thread that focuses on the Bhutto family.

Wouldn't you agree with me that Brig. Ali’s is truly a great ambassador for the Islamic faith? His contributions at sst have helped unlock the power and beauty of Islam to Western eyes. I read his essay, Rediscovering Islam and found I wanted to learn more too.


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