Posted on 04-12-2009
Filed Under (History) by Rashtrakut

Interesting NY Times article on the Turkish nostalgia for the Ottoman past.  Obviously such nostalgia is not uncommon and often bears limited touch to reality.  Even the Taliban claims that they want to create the ideal conditions that supposedly existed under the Rashidun Caliphate, overlooking the fact that the last three of those Caliphs were assassinated (and the last two assassinations were political).  Even in the United States people nostalgically look back to life in the 50s or the alleged nobility in public life under the Founding Fathers.

As far as nostalgic dreams go the Turks sure have a lot to daydream about.  For the descendants of a steppe tribe whose conquest of Anatolia was almost accidental they blazed their way across the global stage.  The battle of Manzikert was a Turkish victory because of a comedy of errors and treachery and even then with the Byzantine army almost intact did not have to be one of the major turning points in history.  But the Byzantines lapsed into one of their ill timed episodic civil wars and in the ensuing decade most of Anatolia was lost for ever.  Numerous opportunities to reverse the flow were wasted in the coming century.  With the Byzantine Empire reduced to a hollow shell after the disastrous Fourth Crusade, the stage was set for the Ottomans.  The Ottoman rise was meteoric.  From a minor tribe in northwestern Anatolia in the early 1300s they had conquered the Balkans and most of Anatolia in 100 years.  After a brief setback at the hands of Timur, the next 120 years saw the conquest of Constantinople, Syria, Egypt and Hungary, the humiliation of the new Safavid Persian Empire and the first siege of Vienna.

The long decline that lasted the next 350 years (interspersed with occasional flickers of strength) commenced with the death of Suleiman the Magnificent.  Gradually many of the European and North African conquests were lost.  The Empire survived largely because, like Austria-Hungary, nobody could agree who would fill the vacuum.  The coup de grace was delivered by World War I.  Outrage at the humiliations imposed by the Treaty of Sevres gave rise to the nationalist movement under Ataturk and the elimination of the dynasty.

It is dangerous to romanticize Ottoman rule too much.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 04-12-2009
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Rashtrakut

Two cave dwelling and homeless Hungarian brothers have hit the genetic jackpot when they discovered that they have inherited a portion of a $6.6 billion fortune from a grandmother they never met.  It appears that they each get 1/3 of the inheritance.  Two people who have cause to praise the rigidity of German inheritance laws.

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Indian authorities (with silent Bangladeshi cooperation) appear to have arrested the head of the United Liberation Front of Asom.  ULFA now appears a spent force and hopefully the mistakes of the past that gave rise to the insurgency will not be repeated.  While the Indian constitution explicitly protects minority religions, cultures and languages and the Indian government has generally not actively discriminated against minorities, India has been plagued by repeated insurgencies and secessionist movements along its periphery.  This was often created by excessive centralization in the aftermath of partition and particularly in the Indira Gandhi years.  The central government also repeatedly dismissed opposition governments in sensitive states like Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.  While this was also carried out in different parts of the country, needless to say states with large minority populations took umbrage.

The insurgency in Assam was different in that unlike Kashmir, Punjab or Nagaland the state is largely Hindu.  Assam, like Kashmir, has historically very much been a part of the Indian cultural mileu but due to geographical location was somewhat isolated on the periphery.  The name of the state itself comes from the Ahoms who conquered the ancient Indian region of Kamarupa.  While the Ahoms would defeat Mughal invasion attempts their civil war plagued kingdom was eventually conquered by Burma.  A few years later the British annexed Assam after the First Anglo-Burmese War.

Assam like Punjab saw its territory drastically reduced after independence when Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were carved out of the state.  Even now certain tribal gorups like the Bodos have agitated for their own states.  If this was a bruise to the Assamese ego, the Indian government made it worse.  Even though Assam contains most of India’s land based oil reserves the refineries (and the resulting jobs) were relocated to electorally more promising states.  From the 1970s illegal immigration from Bangladesh threatened the religious and demographic make up of Assam, a problem aggravated by unscrupulous politicians enrolling these politicians on the electoral rolls.  By the 1980s Assam was the site of a simmering insurgency.

Countries don’t often get a chance to fix repeated mistakes.  However, the decline of the Indian National Congress and the emergence of coalition politics at the national level in India has helped ease some of the regional unrest.  Article 356 of the Indian constitution that was repeatedly misused in the past has rarely been used in the last 15 years.  This has allowed Indian state governments to rise and fall on their own merits without New Delhi being used as a scape goat.  The decline of ULFA is an opportunity to finish the transition from the bullet to the ballot to resolve Assam’s problems.

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Posted on 04-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

As the Pakistani army finally turned its guns on the monsters it help create, the monsters have responded with the type of violence that Afghans and Indians have experienced over the years.  For these so called warriors of Islam it is evidently no sin to send suicide bombers into a mosque (reserved for military families) or to blow up schools.  For the zealots who fund and support these terrorists the question must be asked, what sort of state do you think you would gain in the unlikely event these tactics succeed.  With Pakistan finally facing at home the tactics it has used via proxies against India for the past 25 years it is now or never to fix its corroded institutions and fractured civil society.

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Posted on 04-12-2009
Filed Under (Religion) by Rashtrakut

Previous post here.  Now Jon Stewart’s turn to engage in mockery with an amusing sequence at the end regarding Swiss neutrality.

UPDATE: Particularly amusing is the portion when Oliver raises the issue of Nazi gold to be met with stony silence.  The ambassador is a good sport though on the litmus test.  Meanwhile a Swiss politician puts his foot in his mouth raising the hackles of the Jewish community as well.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Oliver’s Travels – Switzerland
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

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