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Some Things Change, Some Do Not


About a dozen years ago, the Chinese asked politely if they could join the International Space Station program.  The Russians and the Europeans had no objection; the U.S. did.  So the Chinese went their own way.  This week they launched successfully the first element of their own space station.  Ours now is starting to suffer the consequences of straitened economic circumstances here, in Europe and now, with global contraction and declining oil prices, also in Russia.

In the meantime, thanks to the greed and rents imposed by bankers on the general public, the West is in a bust and China has become the world's banker.  China can actually afford a space station.  How things change when a greed economy rooted in excessive consumption takes hold, and we forget that economic success is rooted in wise investment.

Is it also wise to persistently antagonize a country with a hundred nukes and a very large land army? — relatively ill-equipped but convertible into guerrilla forces in the face of an invasion.  Under very difficult circumstances, including jettisoning an erstwhile ally — the Taliban — Pakistan has furnished a vital supply line, provided bases, opened up its air space, even gone to war against its own people suffering thousands of military and civilian casualties as well as devastating suicide bombings, now almost weekly yet unheard of before the conflict.

It turns out a U.S. end run around Pakistan in direct talks with the Taliban failed because of Karzai's insistence on U.S. troops staying on to bolster him — we agreed to 24,000; the Taliban exited the talks.  The various responses in Kabul, whichever group is responsible, have exposed the folly of a strategy based on the Northern Alliance's minority rule.

Some Senators are calling for a cut in aid to Pakistan and a tilt towards India.  It makes little sense to antagonize a necessary ally, and a tilt to either country diminishes our own importance.  A neutral broker working towards peace between the two nuclear-armed states would be more responsible and worthy — at last — of a Nobel Peace Prize..

In all fairness, the governments in both countries, and especially the Administration of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are set on a peace trajectory.  The latest confidence building measure is the just signed $6 billion trade agreement, the biggest in their history.  For the future, one can imagine a Benelux type free trade area with adequate safeguards for the junior partners.  If, in addition, the parties can be persuaded to accept an autonomous Kashmir within such a framework we could be on the way to peace in a riven subcontinent.

Such an arrangement could also have been practical in Israel-Palestine, but a two-state solution is becoming increasingly unlikely.  The settlements housing almost a half-million, (roughly 10% of the Jewish population) and growing, will lead inexorably to a South African scenario, and a struggle for equality and civil rights within a single state.  One wonders if the present Israeli government ever bothers to look beyond the next election.

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