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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

The countdown begins
Cong, BJP scout hard for allies on results-eve
The intense jockeying for power on the eve of the declaration of results in the Lok Sabha elections with both the UPA and NDA lobbying for support with various parties has heightened uncertainty on the composition of the next government. With a plethora of exit polls, most of which predicted an edge for the Congress-led UPA, the Congress is going about the wooing game with quiet confidence and a psychological advantage.

Gross medical negligence
Techie’s case must sharpen accountabiliy
The Supreme Court deserves to be commended for awarding the highest compensation of Rs 1 crore in a case of gross medical negligence to a Hyderabad technocrat. The Bench consisting of Justice B.N. Aggrawal, Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.S. Bedi has observed that the doctors attending on Prashanth S. Dhanaka at Hyderabad’s Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) were seriously remiss in the conduct of a major operation and it was on account of this neglect that he became paralysed for life.





EARLIER STORIES

Regional satraps in demand
May 15, 2009
Well-done, EC
May 14, 2009
Can’t be just goodwill
May 13, 2009
Before and after
May 12, 2009
Plunder of Aravali
May 11, 2009
Caught in the crossfire
May 10, 2009
A shocking give and take
May 9, 2009
Obama to Zardari
May 8, 2009
Wanted: Partners
May 7, 2009
Get back black money
May 6, 2009

Bearing daughters
India could do with more Mitus
Ever so often, women in India succumb to family and societal pressures to abort their female foetuses. That is why the case of Dr Mitu Khurana who resisted pressure and not only gave birth to twin daughters but also had the gumption to take on her in-laws and her husband is worthy of praise. Sadly, today she is fighting a lonely battle. The much-touted Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act under which she has filed a case against her in-laws has not come to her rescue.

ARTICLE

Economic agenda for new govt
Time to provide equal opportunities to all
by T.S. Vishwanath
Suggesting an economic agenda for the new government in New Delhi without considering the political compulsions of coalition politics will be utopian. It will be equally idealistic to assume that the government’s economic policy will not reflect the political ambitions of the alliance in power. Therefore, suggestions on economic policy will have to balance political demands of a coalition government with sustainable policies that will help India remain relevant in a changing global economic order.

MIDDLE

The talkative Indian
by Nonika Singh
The din of elections has died down but three is little likelihood that our political chatterati will now fall silent. The past few months, of course, have seen our political class at their garrulous best, trading charges and counter-charges. Sailing high on word power they have “rolled” adversaries, “weakened” a PM and cut to size political opponents.

OPED

Drone attacks
US, Pakistan join hands to target Taliban
by Dinesh Kumar
After considerable persuasion, Pakistan has finally been co-opted by the United States to engage in Drone operations against militant positions on their soil. According to reports from Washington, under this partnership, a separate fleet of drones operated by the US military from Afghanistan will venture into Pakistan territory under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working alongside their US counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

Partial success better than expensive failure
by Richard N. Haass
Defining Deviancy Down” was the provocative title of a 1993 essay by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who criticized what he saw as growing American permissiveness toward behavior by his fellow citizens that should have been considered criminal or at least unacceptable.

Suu Kyi faces trial to give up home
by Glenn Kessler
Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi will go on trial Monday amid signs that, one way or another, the country’s military rulers intend to force her to give up her home.


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EDITORIALS

The countdown begins
Cong, BJP scout hard for allies on results-eve

The intense jockeying for power on the eve of the declaration of results in the Lok Sabha elections with both the UPA and NDA lobbying for support with various parties has heightened uncertainty on the composition of the next government. With a plethora of exit polls, most of which predicted an edge for the Congress-led UPA, the Congress is going about the wooing game with quiet confidence and a psychological advantage. The BJP-led NDA is doing its own bit to garner support while some regional parties are keeping their options open till the last minute. It’s indeed a no-holds-barred game with all sorts of possibilities.

The Congress has declared that there are only two untouchables — the BJP and the Shiv Sena. It was in that spirit that Congress leader Digvijay Singh called up Samajwadi Party’s Amar Singh suggesting that they work together and forget their past bitterness. Congress President Sonia Gandhi followed up her telephonic talk with Sharad Pawar with calls to Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan while Ghulam Nabi Azad was told to open a channel of communication with AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa. Congress parleys with the Left have softened key Left leaders who are now veering round to supporting the UPA to keep the BJP at bay. Evidently, the Congress knows only too well that any overtures to Jayalalithaa would be frowned upon by its ally the DMK just as feelers to Mayawati would annoy the Samajwadis. But this is an election in which all options have to be kept open and while the existing allies of the Congress may not like this they realize the inevitability of it.

As for the BJP, its main thrust is towards wooing parties for whom Congress is the principal rival in state elections. Consequently, it is trying hard to get Jayalalithaa on board if the DMK remains with the Congress and wooing Mayawati’s BSP if the Congress sticks to its alliance with SP. Likewise, it is banking on Mamata Bannerjee’s antipathy towards the Left if the Congress and Left enter into an understanding and on Chandrababu Naidu’s internal compulsions of keeping the Congress at bay in his state. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s hint on Friday that he would lend support to a party that promises special economic status to Bihar has added a new dimension to the drama. All in all, it is an election in which there are myriad possibilities.

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Gross medical negligence
Techie’s case must sharpen accountabiliy

The Supreme Court deserves to be commended for awarding the highest compensation of Rs 1 crore in a case of gross medical negligence to a Hyderabad technocrat. The Bench consisting of Justice B.N. Aggrawal, Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.S. Bedi has observed that the doctors attending on Prashanth S. Dhanaka at Hyderabad’s Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) were seriously remiss in the conduct of a major operation and it was on account of this neglect that he became paralysed for life. Considering the fact that the disability, which struck Prashanth when he was just 20 years old, made him incapable of even performing his personal chores, no amount can compensate his loss due to doctors’ negligence. This heart-rending case reinforces the need for making doctors more accountable for their acts of omission and commission. The ends of justice will be met only if the callous doctors are tried and punished in accordance with the law. A mere fine on the hospital is not enough.

There may be two opinions on whether or not the victim’s demand for a compensation of Rs 7 crore was just. However, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission did not measure up to its task. Though it held the NIMS negligent since it did not include a neurosurgeon in the surgery team or take the opinion of sister institutes, it awarded only Rs 15.5 lakh in compensation to Prashanth. Despite his disability, he pleaded his own case very convincingly, but the commission awarded him a very low solatium. The judiciary, too, did not give the attention he deserved. His case reached the Supreme Court in 1999.

Unfortunately, compensation awards in medical negligence cases, which originate in consumer courts, are rarely paid in India as appeals drag on for long. The courts, too, tend to give doctors the benefit of doubt. In February 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that doctors’ could not be held liable for “error of judgement”. In August 2005, it ruled that medical negligence must be “gross” in nature to subject doctors to criminal prosecution. Since Prashanth’s case falls in this category, the authorities would do well to prosecute the doctors in question. Clearly, no profession — including that of doctors — should be protected against charges of criminal negligence. And every professional community should be made accountable for its actions.

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Bearing daughters
India could do with more Mitus

Ever so often, women in India succumb to family and societal pressures to abort their female foetuses. That is why the case of Dr Mitu Khurana who resisted pressure and not only gave birth to twin daughters but also had the gumption to take on her in-laws and her husband is worthy of praise. Sadly, today she is fighting a lonely battle. The much-touted Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act under which she has filed a case against her in-laws has not come to her rescue. Even though Section 24 of the Act says that “the court shall presume, unless the contrary is proved, that the pregnant woman has been compelled by her husband or the relative” to undergo PCPNDT, justice continues to elude Mitu.

Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act that became operational in year 1996 was amended and a stronger PCPNDT Act that also bans advertisements of sex selection came into force. Yet, the law has failed to check the widespread practice of female foeticide, rooted in deeply entrenched gender prejudices. While the attitudinal change that will value daughters as much as sons remains a mirage, the implementation of the law is lax. Ironically, while the same law has failed to bring relief to Dr Mitu, it was allegedly used to harass women for undergoing sex selective abortions. All this while, invariably, the doctors, the equally guilty partners walk away scot-free. The mandatory requirement of maintaining form F under the PCPNDT Act is flouted by clinics across the country. Worse still, authorities concerned rarely conduct medical audits.

Indeed, much noise has been made and some action has been taken to address the “missing daughters” phenomenon. Besides individual efforts, the government has launched schemes favouring the girl child. Instances like that of seven villages in Mansa district with a good sex-ratio signify that change is possible. Still, the bias against girl child continues to manifest and in the 21st century her existence is threatened in the womb itself. Until female foeticide is understood and dealt with as a crime in the same continuum as female infanticide or sati, gender imbalance that could rip apart India’s social fabric will continue to grow.

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Thought for the Day

Politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. — Charles de Gaulle

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ARTICLE

Economic agenda for new govt
Time to provide equal opportunities to all
by T.S. Vishwanath

Suggesting an economic agenda for the new government in New Delhi without considering the political compulsions of coalition politics will be utopian. It will be equally idealistic to assume that the government’s economic policy will not reflect the political ambitions of the alliance in power. Therefore, suggestions on economic policy will have to balance political demands of a coalition government with sustainable policies that will help India remain relevant in a changing global economic order.

Political parties have understood that to sustain power the governments they form must ensure that the growth story is both regionally and socially pertinent. Policies and their implementation, therefore, will have to be tailored to meet this demand.

Given this backdrop, the new government at the Centre should adopt a twin-pronged economic agenda. The plan should include short-term measures to tackle the economic meltdown and regain the lost space for the country in global and domestic markets and bring growth back on track. This should combine with a long-term vision of the following policies that make India competitive in global markets.

UNESCAP in a recent report provided some relevant solutions for governments to help small and medium-sized firms, which provide livelihood to lakhs of people in India, boost exports in a recessionary global market. The suggestions included encouraging small exporters improve cost advantage by linking them and enabling them to utilise economies of scale in transport, insurance, market research and marketing. The report also provides other relevant recommendations relating to governance.

Besides focussing on exports, it will be important for the new government to create additional domestic demand to ensure that India’s impressive growth figures during the last few years do not come down substantially. Sectors which are primarily focussed on the domestic market need to be made competitive by the government through better information and access to research and technology that is best suited to Indian conditions. Strategic focus by the government on building a globally competitive Indian industry would be essential to make the country economically vibrant.

Beyond industry to make economic policies relevant to the grassroots, the government will need to focus attention on several unsuccessful schemes launched to boost economic development for the poor. The lack of success may be because there is a fetish in governments to announce new policies without putting in place systems and processes that will ensure that the schemes reach the needy. These policy announcements become photo opportunities and no priority is accorded to genuine monitoring of these policies. There may be a few exceptions but they are far and in between.

There is evidence available to suggest that schemes fail to reach the deserving, but governments have not focussed on putting in place sustainable monitoring systems that will yield real results consistently and not just on paper. There have been some legitimate attempts to bridge this gap between promise and delivery. But the success rates of such attempts have been limited. A priority for the government at the Centre should, therefore, be to find solutions to see that the schemes which benefit the poor actually reach the under-privileged.

Adequate delivery systems may help meet the growing challenge of addressing the issue of improving the livelihood of people across the nation so that they do not feel the need to rebel against “lopsided development”. The pockets of dissent spreading across India in the recent past are disturbing and need immediate response that ensures both economic and social improvement for people in those regions.

Against this backdrop, the focus for economic development for any government has to be on health and education. In both these areas, there have been a plethora of policies that have not yielded adequate results. Despite some sincere efforts, there is a lack of penetration on these two very basic needs that can drastically improve the lives of people. This again points to a delivery failure and not necessarily a policy failure. Universal access to good health and education will provide a platform to people across the country to benefit from development without the grudge of being left behind those who can access better facilities.

The solution to this problem may be in ensuring that the government moves away from focussing on building more schools and hospitals to connecting the existing hospitals and schools to more places across rural India through a strong network of roads and better transport facilities. This will help the government with limited resources for these two areas concentrate on providing better facilities to the existing schools and hospitals that will meet the needs of a larger catchment area connected through a good road and transport network. This will provide better facilities to people while addressing the core issue of better connectivity across the nation.

Beyond physical infrastructure, there is a need to focus on technology. E-learning in primary schools will make it unique and interesting for children while saving on teachers who do not attend school regularly. E-medicine at primary health care centres will make the rural health worker in small villages effective since that person can connect to a doctor and get advice for treating common ailments. This will create new job opportunities in villages while at the same time providing effective service to rural citizens. Better road connectivity to towns and cities from rural areas will also bring better teachers and doctors from semi-urban to rural areas.

The focus on health and education has to be matched with a desire to improve productivity in farms, leading to higher revenues for farmers, especially the small tillers. Systems again need to be put in place to ensure that the process of reaching the produce from the farm to the dining table is streamlined.

In short, the new government will need to create policies, monitoring systems and processes that ensure that economic development does not lead to migration from rural to urban India and provides nearly equal opportunities across the nation. This mantra will help politicians fuse political ambitions with national growth while at the same time attacking pockets of dissent in different regions that have become a cause for concern.

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MIDDLE

The talkative Indian
by Nonika Singh

The din of elections has died down but three is little likelihood that our political chatterati will now fall silent. The past few months, of course, have seen our political class at their garrulous best, trading charges and counter-charges. Sailing high on word power they have “rolled” adversaries, “weakened” a PM and cut to size political opponents. All in all, their verbal duels have generally added much mirth and drama to the making of a great tragedy called the Indian elections.

Before its final fractured verdict can be announced, Lalus and Varuns have fractured many sensible sensibilities. But then why call the pot black? Politicians alone are not guilty of shooting from the hip. Let us admit it. Dr Amartya Sen’s “Argumentative Indian” is in effect the talkative Indian. We are without doubt a verbose race.

So we love playing with words, twisting and tearing others. Verbal sparring may well be our best sport. Only if Olympic Games included it, our political class followed by the new generation of radio and TV jockeys joined by self-styled gurus would give all possible competitors a run for their money.

The speed with which we can out speak others (watch us at work on incessant television debates) cannot possibly be matched by any foreign elements. Yanking needlessly and ceaselessly comes naturally to us. In love or out of love, we like to sway with words.

“You say it best when say nothing at all…” might go the evergreen love song. But we smother our loved ones with words alone. Many an Indian marriage has been made (or unmade) by this innate impulse to speak when not required, of being deliriously oblivious to the fine line between speaking and smarting others. Think before you speak. Well, we speak and when others squirm, we speak a little more.

How we love to offer unsolicited advice to friends, relatives, colleagues even strangers and passers by.

Minding others’ business is very much our business. In the process, we put our foot right into our mouths. And are we repentant? Are you kidding? Aa la the tribe of Lalus and Varuns, we too feign ignorance and like them our stock response always is - Oh! I meant well.

Perhaps, our verbosity explains our fascination for Shakespearean dramas. Never mind that its Elizabethan English invariably goes over our head, Shakespeare is and will be an integral part of our syllabi and of our growing-up years.

As children many of us not only memorised his long-winding dramatic speeches but also delivered it with great aplomb. But to his sublime thought “brevity is the soul of wit” we are likely to quip— did Shakespeare say that? Anyway its import and that of “silence is golden” is perniciously and permanently lost over us.

At the recent Oscar award ceremony, sound designer Resul Pookutty may have declared grandly, rather with great pride in his acceptance speech, “I come from a country and a civilisation that gave the world the word that precedes silence and is followed by more silence. That word is Om”. For the voluble Indian “Om Shanti Om” remains but the name of a Shah Rukh Khan film. You bet the movie was in the “fine tradition” of chattering Indians, an extremely boisterous one.

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OPED

Drone attacks
US, Pakistan join hands to target Taliban
by Dinesh Kumar

After considerable persuasion, Pakistan has finally been co-opted by the United States to engage in Drone operations against militant positions on their soil. According to reports from Washington, under this partnership, a separate fleet of drones operated by the US military from Afghanistan will venture into Pakistan territory under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working alongside their US counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

This arrangement entails Pakistani officers exercising significant control over routes, targets and decisions to fire weapons while working with the US military. However, the Pakistanis are yet to become partners in the use of Drones for shooting suspected militants. As of now, it is only about reconnoitering movement and positions of militants. Islamabad’s rather reluctant decision to join the Americans comes after repeated protests to Washington following the US military’s use of Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to strike at Al-Qaeda and Taliban positions inside Pakistani territory.

Yet, these strikes did not prevent the Pakistanis from asking the Americans to supply them Drones ostensibly to target the Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. In an interview to The Independent in early April, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had stated that they were willing to take out high-value targets on their own and would therefore welcome the relevant technology and intelligence. “We would much prefer that the US share its intelligence and give us the drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of this problem on our own”, he was quoted as saying.

Yet there are reports of Pakistan quietly conducting its own ‘Drone war’ against militant forces and terrorist elements using tactical unmanned UAVs in the mountainous Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and along the Afghan border. In March, the Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the Pakistani military was using unarmed Falcos for traditional surveillance tasks but also in a ‘hunter’ role – targeting air strikes, providing real-time coverage of attacks and then delivering battle damage assessments. In an interview last November, Pakistan’s air chief Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed said that the Pakistani Air Force would begin using the Falco in live operations at the beginning of 2009. However, Pakistan’s eventual decision to join hands with the US has been more a result of American pressure.

Drones or UAVs are a relatively new entrant in military technology. Unlike combat aircrafts that are piloted by humans, UAVs or Drones are remotely piloted or self-piloted aircraft that carry video and still cameras, sensors and communications equipment. Again, unlike fighter or reconnaissance aircraft, these are much smaller in size and therefore more difficult to detect on radar. Drones, of which the US and Israel have been the pioneers in its development, have become a new tool in the box for modern militaries in the ongoing revolution in military technology. UAVs serve as a considerable force multiplier and facilitator in, for example, the otherwise troop-sapping mountainous and less populated regions of Afghanistan and also the Afghan-Pak border region where the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are hiding.

The main purpose of these stealth aircraft is reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering without risking lives on ground. UAVs, which have been utilised in reconnaissance and intelligence gathering since the 1950s, have increasingly become sophisticated over the years. For example, the Israeli-designed Hermes 450, being operated by the allied forces in Afghanistan, have been flying up to 15 hours a day at a stretch. But some Drones, such as the US-made Predator employed in Pakistan and Afghanistan, have a flight endurance of up to 29 hours at a stretch. The US-made Gnat 750 UAV has a flight endurance of as much as 48 hours.

But of greater significance is the type of technologies that have been integrated on UAVs. The earlier versions of UAVs recorded data on camera and other sensors but were unable to transmit live images. Over time, live transmission of pictures made it possible for an armed force to react much faster by either scrambling fighter aircraft for strike missions, or firing missiles at the newly ‘acquired’ targets, or even sending in troops depending on the nature of the target and the mission. Like satellites and reconnaissance aircraft, UAVs are being fitted with sophisticated synthetic aperture radars that enable imagery to be collected in adverse weather or through foliage.

The more recent addition to this Drone club is Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles or UCAVs, which were developed in earnest (after an earlier attempt at its development in the 1970s was aborted) only in the late 1990s. Like strike aircraft, UCAVs carry munitions such as missiles and the more accurate precision or laser guided bombs, which are being used by the Americans and their allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and also Pakistan. Hence, both satellite and fighter aircraft technology is increasingly being compressed into Drones that are relatively miniature in size.

To cite an example of its effectiveness, on March 4, 2002, a Predator UCAV operated by the American CIA, fired a Hellfire missile into a reinforced Al-Qaeda machine gun bunker that had pinned down an Army Ranger team whose CH-47 Chinook helicopter had crashed on the top of Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountain. Previous attempts by US Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft were unable to destroy the bunker. This appears to be the first time that such a weapon has been used in a close air support role. UAVs are now being extensively used in Iraq and Afghanistan to obtain real time video imagery to speed the targeting of insurgent positions by coalition strike aircraft.

UAVs, which have been inducted by all three services – the Army, Navy and Air Force – of many modern militaries, require a runway for take off. But defence scientists are working on developing the more challenging Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) technology for UAVs. Similarly, UAVs are being developed in different categories of endurance: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs, which can carry a 250 kg payload, fly continuously for 24 hours at altitudes as high as 30,000 feet, and up to operational distances of 1,000 km, and High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, which will fly still higher and out of striking distance of surface-to-air missiles.

More recently, defence academics in the US have begun making a case for the development and deployment of nuclear-dedicated UCAVs that will be relatively cheaper than long-range missiles and strategic bombers. UCAV’s have not yet replaced strike aircraft, but they have certainly begun to augment the air fleet of advanced military forces the world over.

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Partial success better than expensive failure
by Richard N. Haass

Defining Deviancy Down” was the provocative title of a 1993 essay by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who criticized what he saw as growing American permissiveness toward behavior by his fellow citizens that should have been considered criminal or at least unacceptable.

Sometimes, though, lowering the bar (or setting the bar low) is called for. Not every situation can be perfected or resolved, at least not at a level of effort and cost justified by the stakes.

Take the case of Iraq. The contrast between the two presidents Bush and their wars with Saddam Hussein is striking and informative. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, defined success as reversing Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait.

He resisted calls that the U.S.-led coalition “go to Baghdad” to oust Iraq’s leadership. The downside of his decision to embrace a limited definition of success was that Saddam Hussein remained in power (albeit much weakened); the upside was that the United States avoided the high human, economic, military and diplomatic costs of removing him and trying to replace his regime with something markedly better.

George W. Bush set the bar higher. He defined success as removing Saddam Hussein, something he believed would transform the politics of not just Iraq but the entire Middle East. Bush succeeded in ousting Saddam Hussein, but at a high cost — and the expected benefits did not materialize in Iraq or the region. We would have been better off without Bush’s war of choice.

North Korea offers another example of the case for defining success down. In June 1950, the North Koreans invaded the South. The United States, under the aegis of the United Nations, responded. The goal was to restore the border and liberate South Korea.

Where the United States got into trouble was its decision to march north of the 38th parallel after the border had been restored. Gen. Douglas MacArthur pushed for, and President Truman approved, expanded U.S. objectives in the flush of tactical success after the inspired landing at Inchon.

But neither China nor the Soviet Union was prepared to allow the entire Korean Peninsula to fall into the American orbit. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese “volunteers” joined the North Korean forces and pushed back.

Three years and 30,000 American lives later, the United States agreed to an armistice based on a division of Korea at the same 38th parallel. Accepting a limited result early on would have proven far preferable to trying to bring about complete success.

These examples and considerations bear direct relevance for U.S. foreign policy today. Afghanistan is a case in point as the United States weighs what goals it should seek to bring about and what resources it should be prepared to expend.

In Afghanistan, success could be defined a number of ways: limiting al-Qaida’s ability to operate on Afghan territory; weakening or defeating the Taliban; eliminating drug production; building democracy. The problem is that even modest objectives will prove ambitious in the “graveyard of empires.”

President Obama has opted for a modest but not minimalist strategy of targeting al-Qaida, weakening the Taliban and strengthening the central government. History suggests two pieces of advice. First, if the Obama administration is fortunate enough to achieve these goals, it should resist expanding U.S. objectives. Second, if it fails to meet its objectives, it should resist increasing its effort much beyond current levels. Instead, it should limit the scale of what it seeks.

Such reasoning holds true for Iran as well. It is highly unlikely that the United States will be able to persuade or pressure Iran to forgo uranium enrichment entirely. The best that can be hoped for is a ceiling on what Tehran does — in particular, not enrich uranium to a concentration required for a weapon — and intrusive inspections so that the world can be confident of this. The outcome is less than ideal, to say the least, but it is one we could live with.

Defining success down in the case of contemporary North Korea would mean accepting that Pyongyang is not about to give up its handful of nuclear weapons. Instead, the United States would work in tandem with China to limit the development of North Korea’s arsenal and discourage it from transferring material or technology to others.

Some will argue that defining success down is defeatist. And certainly, one can imagine an Afghanistan or an Iraq that becomes a Jeffersonian democracy and an Iran or a North Korea that gets out of the nuclear business. But such outcomes are improbable at best and more likely fantasy. Moreover, far greater involvement and investment would still fail to bring them about.

The alternatives are outcomes that are good enough and commensurate with interests and costs. The moment calls for defining success down. The United States is stretched economically and militarily. Better partial success we can afford than expensive failures we cannot.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Suu Kyi faces trial to give up home
by Glenn Kessler

Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi will go on trial Monday amid signs that, one way or another, the country’s military rulers intend to force her to give up her home.

The trial stems from an incident involving a U.S. citizen, identified as John Yettaw, who swam across Yangon’s picturesque Lake Inya last week to reach Suu Kyi’s lakefront bungalow and allegedly stayed there one or two nights.

On Thursday, she was taken to Yangon’s Insein prison on charges of violating the terms of her detention by hosting a foreigner, which could bring a three- to five-year prison term, according to opposition officials. The charges came just days before Suu Kyi’s six-year term under house arrest is due to expire.

A little-known lawsuit filed by Suu Kyi’s estranged older brother, a U.S. citizen, poses another threat. In 2001, Aung San Oo demanded ownership of half of the two-story house that had been the property of their mother. A Myanmar court suspended the case because foreigners may not own property in the country, but sources in Yangon have indicated in recent weeks that the suit may be revived. The courts in Myanmar, also known as Burma, are completely under the control of the military junta.

Aung Lin Htut, the former deputy chief of mission for the Myanmar Embassy in Washington, said in a recent interview that the lawsuit was generated by the Myanmar government. The ambassador at the time, U Tin Win, received an order from Yangonto obtain San Oo’s signature on the lawsuit in exchange for promises of business opportunities for his wife, a Myanmar national, and her family, Lin Htut said.

“When Aung San Oo returned these papers with his signature, the ambassador checked them carefully, signed his signature to confirm and sent it back to General Than Shwe through the diplomatic pouch,” said Lin Htut, who defected in 2005 and now lives in Maryland.

Than Shwe is Myanmar’s head of state. San Oo, who had a home in San Diego at the time of the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment; there are reports he is now living in Myanmar. Irrawaddy, an opposition magazine published in Thailand, reported in 2005 that he was building a home in Pagan and living in a government guesthouse near his sister’s home.

Lin Htut, who said he still keeps in contact with high-level sources in Myanmar, said Than Shwe has made it clear to colleagues that he has little desire to allow Suu Kyi’s detention to end, viewing her release as “the last card” he can play in his dealings with the rest of the world.

Than Shwe is especially wary of freeing her now, as the junta prepares to hold fresh elections in 2010 under a new constitution that it says will create a “disciplined democracy,” including a legislature with 25 percent of the seats reserved for members of the military.

Dozens of opponents of the government have been rounded up in recent months, and many have been given long sentences. Critics contend that the authorities are trying to remove from circulation anyone who could become a focal point of opposition.

The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, recently issued a statement saying it would consider participating in the election, but only if Suu Kyi was freed, the constitution was amended and the elections were free and fair. The party won a landslide victory in 1990 that the military refused to recognize, and Suu Kyi has been under detention for 13 of the 19 years since then.

Suu Kyi, 63, is said to be in poor health and has recently been treated for dehydration and low blood pressure. For the last six years, her only regular visitor has been her doctor, who has been allowed to see her once a month, but he has also been held for questioning.

Little is known about what motivated Yettaw, a 53-year-old resident of Falcon, Mo., to visit Suu Kyi’s home. His ex-wife told the Associated Press that he said he had to travel to Asia, leaving behind a 10-year-old and three teenagers with friends, to work on a psychological paper on forgiveness.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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