Beacon of Despair and Mobocracy

Hiltzik: Big business discovers the folly of supporting Trump - Los Angeles  Times
[Trump insurrectionists scaling wall of the US Congress]

Writing this at three in the morning, January 6, 2020, I see rednecks from all over the United States streaming onto the Capitol Hill in Washington DC, intent on having the November election results reversed! Wilfully incited by the outgoing knucklehead of a President, Donald J Trump, they stormed the Capitol building housing the two houses of the American legislature which are involved in the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. They streamed past paralyzed police and the paramilitary, National Guard, et al, who by and large are standing around doing nothing, perhaps, because the 30,000-strong mob was doing Trump’s bidding. So much for American democracy, a supposedly liberal system, in action!

Having witnessed such instances of breakdown of democratic norms on numerous occasions during my some 14 odd years spent in that country, I have long maintained that, while democracy as a system is inherently delicate and fragile everywhere, American democracy more than most others is always teetering on the brink of breakdown, hanging on for its dear life by its fingernails. And that US’ over-zealous profession of democratic values should, therefore, not be taken seriously. And I am not saying anything about institionalized racism in the US, most conspicuously targeting the black population in that country.

There is never any shortage of political drama in the US. It is rivetting reality television! Have been up all night watching what is deemed an “insurrection” unfold on CNN. In all my writings, I have always urged the Indian government to show US interlocuters the proverbial finger anytime they bring up the matter of India needing to up its game where the integrity of the democratic process and respect for human rights is concerned. As first order of business this morning, the External Affairs Ministry should wag a finger at Washington, as the latter does when there are riots and other disturbances in India. The MEA spokesperson should unctuously demand that the US government protect the democratic verdict and improve its democratic system. This’d be the appropriate thing to do considering how American agencies routinely meddle in the internal affairs of developing countries, including India, lecturing them on how a good demcracy ought to work. The US Commission on Religious Freedom, it may be recalled, recently put India on notice for violations.

Indeed, watching the mayhem in Washington on TV the former US President George W Bush likened America to a “banana republic”. Let India never again be lectured then on freedom and democratic functioning by a banana republic without the Indian government asking it formally, and diplomatically, of course, to shutup! Erdogan’s Turkey — an autocracy if there’s one — has already stuck a knife in Washington’s side by asking it to protect its democratic tradition!

To see the rule of law sidelined by security officers shrugging their shoulders and letting these crazed yahoos try and exert their will on the US Congress is to be reminded of Indian state and central police, time and again, standing aside and allowing rioters to do their thing undisturbed, simply because the law breaking is orchestrated by minions of the concerned Prime Minister or Chief Minister. Rajiv Gandhi let murderous mobs kill Sikh citizens at will on the streets of Delhi in 1984. And state police in Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP and in other states have frequently acted as bystanders as the Chief Minister’s supporters ran riot.

My initial experience of law & order breakdown in the US was during my first summer there (1968). I saw on TV Chicago Police go absolutely berserk, literally smashing the heads of young people protesting America’s involvement in the war against Vietnam. The scenes were so bloody and heartrending, it shocked my then fairly innocent sensibilities. Nine years later, I found myself on Ground Zero, as it were. It was during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. I was on a sidewalk just outside the UCLA campus early one Fall evening and found an Iranian on the ground being mercilessly kicked in the stomach and head by two young goons. I was still about 20 feet away when I came upon them. They stopped, turned and started walking threateningly towards me. Two feet away, one of them asked angrily if I was an “I-RANEAN”. I responded that I wasn’t whereupon they turned and left!

As I tried to help the bloodied Iranian on the ground to sit up I saw not 8 feet away an LA Police patrol car parked with 2 policeman inside it. They hadn’t moved to prevent the beating of this grad student. I shouted out to them to help me get this grievously hurt person to the UCLA medical school hospital down the road. The dismissive response from one of them was: “Do it yourself!” before they drove off. I somehow managed to do that with the help of two other students. It occurred to me in a flash then just how gossamer thin the law & order pretensions of the US really are; and have been skeptical ever since. My eyes glaze over and I instinctively stop listening when Americans, high and low, talk of their “democracy” as a beacon of anything, least of all hope, in the world.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Culture, domestic politics, Great Power imperatives, Indian democracy, Iran and West Asia, Islamic countries, MEA/foreign policy, society, United States, US., Vietnam, West Asia, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Beacon of Despair and Mobocracy

  1. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    This is a comedy show going on in USA. Come on Trump supporters start a shooting match to keep your brainless moron in the White House. It would provide nice, free entertainment for the global masses.

    After the end of Second World War in 1945, the US has initiated wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. The Yankees have also been heavily involved in the disruptive politics in Latin American as well as African countries.

    USA is no-one’s friend. It’s a selfish corrupt nation whose, political elites thrive on starting wars all over the globe. They roll in the dough through supplying weapons to all the warring factions besides, cornering lucrative reconstruction projects.

    As Mr. Karnad rightly points out in his write-up. India should formally tell the Americans to put their own house in order instead of lecturing others.

  2. Sohamg says:

    The PM did just that, an hour ago !

  3. andy says:

    This is hugely off topic,but I had to put it here because this is very much in line with whatever @Bharat had recommended in his book. Just that its not exactly the same,but broadly similar. So who gets the credit now? .

  4. Amit says:

    While I agree with your assessment of the banana republic nature of yesterday’s protests, India still needs the US as an ally to manage China. The US still has strengths and is liberal enough that for all it’s law and order problems, there are enough people within the country who are fighting for justice. It is still the most open country for immigrants (Trump not withstanding), It is still highly innovative and efficient, and still an open and transparent wealth generator for the world. So while India should definitely leverage American weaknesses in it’s negotiations with the US, we should also not lose sight of the fact that India can benefit tremendously from the US, and should continue to develop the relationship. We cannot take on China on our own until we are a much bigger economy. To me China is the biggest existential threat to India and we need strong allies to manage that threat. I understand you are making a narrower point about law and order and American exceptionalism, but I wanted to state that, that should still not change the overall direction of the US – India relationship.

  5. Debanjan Banerjee says:

    Another wonderful article depicting the current mood of nation by Mr. Karnad. Of late Pakistani supreme court took very quick and justified decision against the vandalizing of the temple in KP. DO you think Pakistan is worthy of praise after this decision ? Does India need to learn something with regards to the treatment of minorities by Pakistan with this positive example set by the Pakistani supreme court ?

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

  6. San Mann says:

    As scenes of chaos emanate from the US capitol of Washington DC, India needs to be vigilant, wary, and prepared. It was in 1962 when the US was distracted by the Cuban Missile Crisis, that China saw the opportunity to attack India. Now as the US falls into internal turmoil not seen since the US Civil War, there is a danger that China could again see America’s internal distraction as an invitation to pounce.

    If China comes at India in heavy force, we must be prepared to do a thermonuclear test, in addition to fending off their attack.

    • Amit says:

      Good idea…we should do a thermo nuclear test anyway. Even without any additional aggression from the Chinese. Like how France did in the mid nineties.

  7. Avatar says:

    What anglos have sown they will reap.
    Quote – –
    “This is pure entertainment, watching the US media going absolutely crazy panicking and condemning the protesters. The politicians cower and shiver in their boots. Oh, my God they cry, how can this be happening! When it happens in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Venezuela, Iran, etc, etc they cheer the violence on. They assist with billions of dollars, weapons, military to crank up the violence and misery in other countries. The media gushes all over themselves showing the turmoil, hardly able to contain their glee in reporting other peoples misery. But, oh no, not in the US…it just can’t be tolerated. Evil-minded hypocrites at their worst!. ”

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      Haha, exactly my point…

      Go Trump fans go, what the heck you were 30,000 odd strong armed group and only lost 4 of your comrades.

      Go ahead, fight. Shoot. Let Trump continue as the President, after all he is the chosen one.

      We (the masses of the world) are counting on you macho Yankees (Trump fans) to provide us more entertainment.

  8. Baji says:

    An alternate view of the protests.

    The Congress Has No Clothes:
    The Capitol Occupation & Post-Trumpian Populism

    I think for most of us who were watching, we simply had an overwhelming feeling of Schadenfreude — seeing the political elite that’s been selling us down the river and making our lives hell for decades for once the ones cowering in fear. This was most especially true of the Democrats, who got a taste of their own medicine after endlessly excusing and justifying BLM and Antifa violence over the past four years. Only a few weeks before, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had tweeted an ill-timed message justifying protests, writing, “The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the ‘polite language’ policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore . . . The whole point of protesting is to make people uncomfortable. Activists take that discomfort with the status quo and advocate for concrete policy changes. Popular support often starts small and grows. To folks who complain protest demands make others uncomfortable . . . that’s the point.” On this, we can agree with her.

    ut for me, I was no less happy to see the Republicans on the run. After all, it is they who have been stoking the anger and resentment of populist Americans, secure in their belief that they had conjured a monster they completely controlled and that they could endlessly exploit for their own purposes no matter what they did. Well, that monster turned around and bit them on their fleeing asses on Wednesday. The “people,” whom they love to claim they represent, went from being an ideological abstraction to an angry mob after they felt cheated and decided to take matters into their own hands. It’s important to remember that, according to reports, what first inspired the protesters to descend on the Capitol was when word reached them that Pence had refused to challenge the certification of the Electoral College result. They weren’t just angry at the Democrats; they were angry at the whole lot of them.

  9. Kunal Singh says:

    Off topic but can happen anywhere.
    Was very entertaining to see like in GodfatherII when In New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31,1958, Michael Corleone visited Havana in Cuba,did dealings with President Fulgencio Batista. Batista’s regime was under attack at that time by guerillas of Fidel Castro and flooded the Presidential palace cuba
    Same vibes…

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