Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thick of Things

The assassination of Osama Bin Laden feels like a threshold has been crossed but one is unsure what it is. In recent years, al-Qaeda has reached a level of insignificance that it looks more like a revenge killing but really it is justice served for 9/11. The decapitation of the head of the terrorist group is the last nail in the coffin. Hopefully, that would portend improvements in the situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban no longer has its symbolic and important supporter at its back. The strategy of counter-insurgency with surgical strikes is the wave of the future. Social engineering via nation building and regime change has lost its allure as well as funding. It is the portent of things to come: more intelligence and surgical strikes and less large-scale military interventions. The spies are back with high tech espionage and old fashioned cloak and dagger work. John le Carre will be proud.

In the larger picture, Osama’s death is the removal of the last impediment towards the democratization of the Middle East. The recent people power revolts detached the focus from Islamic extremism towards democracy and openness. Corrupt and long serving dictators should go; not the Islamists. After all religion is difficult to fight against and the right of the people. It’s a good strategy wherein people’s energies are best spent earning money after economic openness is achieved with the departure of oligarchies aligned to reigning dictators. Political and economic liberalization is the key towards shaking the hold of Islamic extremism in Middle Eastern youths. No more martyrs and beautiful virgins waiting in heaven. No more bombs and missiles but capitalism and open markets. In fact, virgins are available in earthly paradise as long as one has the money. Martyrdom is no longer required.

Eventually, this strategy could pave the way for peace between Israel and Palestine. One suspects that the influence of the military-industrial-complex is waning; especially after the loss of the neo-conservatives. The complex is likely responsible for sponsoring the Pakistani elements who harbor terrorists like Osama. The Pakistani elements are also responsible for the spread of nuclear technology to rogue states like North Korea and Iran. Perhaps it serves as platform for leveling the nuclear playing field as long as terrorist don’t get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan is really the terrorist state – a militant theocracy like Israel. Some people would think that these two states are the real threat to peace; a willing pawn of the military – industrial – complex. The Osama killing and the successful people power revolts in the Middle East is a repudiation of the previous Cheney - Bush – Rumsfeld doctrine.

The current doctrine maybe called the Obama – Clinton – Panetta doctrine. A strategy to increase democracy (or American power and influence) in the Islamic world without the military interventionism of the past.  Hopefully it would increase the chances of peace and prosperity in the Middle East as well as reduce the dependency on oil. It’s a brilliant holistic strategy. I think there’s a lot of excitement in that part of the world. A similar situation occurred in Asia with people power revolts and economic liberalization in the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia wherein significant regimes were upended and changed. Perhaps a similar situation is developing in the Middle East. The fall of Islamic extremism (as compared to the fall of central planning and cronyism in Asia) is the key goal. Open markets and money are the drivers of this change.

With all these external upheaval, one is also engaged in a significant but modest ‘battle’ in one’s own front yard. The new application has been live for 10 days. It has proven to be robust and able to handle the work. But the onsite staff is not exactly impressed or enthusiastic, preferring the old system. The program does need enhancements to resolve the minor issues that have arisen since go live; but resources are tired and not excited to keep things moving. Sometimes the local team is not helpful (like the Pakistani intelligence when looking for Osama) when they perceive their power slipping after the new system is implemented in all sites. The offsite support is also slow in delivering the next release. It feels like a constant battle; fighting in multiple fronts – from the people ware – to the application issues – to the support staff - to the business leadership. The result is fleeting stress and anxiety, early mornings and lack of sleep.

Despite the excitement at work, one is still piling up the weekend with books, movies and music. Too much distraction and no focus on the true goal of writing. The creative writing course is ending next week and one has learned a lot. But one cannot commit the required serious time to achieve the dream. One is still in accumulation mode – where one is still reading and learning instead of applying the knowledge already gained. A never ending gathering of information and experience that’s a bane for people with an inclination toward input and learning. Perhaps it’s only the thrill of accumulating. For example, one has downloaded movies or purchased DVDs and books but no time to read or enjoy them. It’s feels like the joy in acquisition is the end in itself. The only resolution is a drunken stupor in the weekend – enjoying the recent discovery of vodka martinis (shaken not stirred) and olives and be oblivious of the gathering baggage in one’s mind.

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