Tag: Obama

President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Few Recent Essays by yours truly

A lot changed in one year. Almost a pole switched, and the global order reversed, since September 2015 to Trump’s inauguration. A lot happened in between, questioning out essential assumptions about everything we know.

How did we get here? What changed? What went wrong, and how to explain the change?

From February 2017, I am starting to teach a course called “M11006 Problems in Global Politics” and I will be quite busy. But I took some time off, to write a few long essays about issues around us.

I like to see myself as a chronicler of time; a political realist, equally hated from the right and the left, and that gives me immense pleasure. True neutrality is something to be cherished, and strive for constantly. From the ashes of our civilisation, sometime in distant future, maybe there will remain some iconoclastic viewpoints, a few of them mine hopefully.

In that spirit, here are a few selected long essays from last couple of weeks. 

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Obama goes all anti-PC

So, when does the left start calling Obama racist, sexist and misogynist?


Heat StreetObama Slams Political Correctness, Says Stop Going Around ‘Looking for Insults’


VoxObama on liberal college students who want to be “coddled”: “That’s not the way we learn”



The Realist civil war and Donald Trump

I’ve covered elections since 2008, both as a blogger and journalist. As a blogger, writing about two US elections of 2008 and 2012, and the Indian general election and the UK election. As a journalist and correspondent, New Zealand elections and Fiji elections. Never in my life, have I encountered an anomaly like Donald Trump.

Now, as a foreign policy researcher (and as my publications show, I consider myself to be a neorealist) and I have written enough about why neither Trump, nor Obama are realists of any sort. Other realists have written similarly as well. (Walt on Obama, Walt on Trump, Joffe on Obama, Blatt on Trump)

But that debate suddenly just got vicious.

As readers remember, Daniel Drezner first wrote about how Trump is/will be accepted as a foreign policy realist, because of how he sounds realist, has specific policy proposals similar to the stark realist world even some realists shudder to think about. I flinched at the thought then. But it is no shame to write now, perhaps I was wrong, and I underestimated Trump’s legitimisation within the realist foreign policy community.

The recent episode was the firing of a fellow of National Interest, who like a lot of realists, opposed this legitimisation of Trump by hosting him and correctly pointed out in an essay for the War on the Rocks, (where I write occasionally as well, which I must mention here for the sake of balance), that Trump is a charlatan and is too incoherent to be a realist president. Of course National Interest justified the hosting of Trump but it was not convincing, to say the least.

So where does that leave realists now?

I believe, this is what we see,

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So, is Donald Trump a Neo-Realist?

I guess this was inevitable.

After the debate about Obama being a Realist, (he’s ofcourse not) it was inevitable the Neorealist tag would be on Donald Trump after his interminable dross for New York Times. It is an incoherent mess, with talking points which will make, Hayek to Say to Ricardo to Morgenthau to Waltz, all cringe in shame, but it had some interesting moments.

But not as interesting as this debate which started right after.

If you click on the above images, you will get the crux of the argument. Is Trump a Neorealist or not? The argument for, is that he wants Japan and South Korea to have independent deterrence, and rid United States of carrying the security burden in Asia. The counter argument is, well…he is insane.

Here’re my points.

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Weekly Reading List: All about foreign policy Realism.

Hi everyone, been long we had a Weekly Reading List! Not weekly anymore, unfortunately, as I am busy with my work and research, but as Easter break is approaching, and I will be immersed full time in my PhD thesis, here’re a few articles which I want to leave you guys with, which I wrote in the last one month.

JIR2016_1First, the big one.

My research paper got published, titled “Was Putin Ever Friendly to the West?”: An Expository Study of the First Two Terms of President Vladimir Putin, In Light of the Theories of Realism. (Journal of International Relations, Faculty of International Relations, University of Economics in Bratislava 2016, Volume XIV, Issue 1, Pages 58-92. ISSN 1336-1562 (print), ISSN 1339-2751 (online) Published 15. 3. 2016)

You can download the full paper here.

Aurangzeb_in_old_age_2Secondly, most of you would remember I wrote a comparative piece on how modern Russia is like seventeenth century India under the Mughals? I went a bit further and compared Putin and the medieval Indian emperor Aurangzeb. (Which, incidentally got a nice review here!)

I wrote two articles on Russia-Direct, the first one on how unlikely it is for Russia to actually invade the Baltics, and the second one on the fact that Russia and US is not in any New Cold war, but just a usual Great power rivalry with competition and cooperation happening simultaneously.

I also wrote one long essay for The Interpreter Magazine, on how contrary to popular belief, Obama is not a Realist…infact he doesn’t seem to understand what Realism in foreign policy means.

With regards to my weekly columns, here are they. 

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Obama and Putin

Obama’s Syria legacy

I have written on the idea of Obama being a Political Realist before. I said, even if he pays lip service to Realism, most notably in his speeches and interviews, and tries to portray himself as a a cold, calculating genius…he is not, infact a Realist. His biggest flaw is not being cold and calculating, but being half-hearted and uninterested and dithering in his approach. Also, he is naive and idealistic in some ways when it comes to his early optimism about Arab Spring, or a Reset with Medvedev’s Russia, which fundamentally misunderstood the nature of Russia’s ruling elite and hierarchy.

In my latest column, I analyse, that Obama maybe is also, to some extent unable to say openly, what he wants, due to structural American domestic politics, and the upcoming elections. Have a read, and let me know if I have missed something!



Is Obama a Realist in Syria? TL-DR: No.

Nick Cohen is wrong about Syria and “Realism”

Obama is not a Realist, and the way the West dealt with Syria, is not Realism, and it is about time this recurring myth is talked about.

Nick Cohen, one of my favorite writers, also wrote about the Syrian Refugee crisis recently, and opined, that the future generations will blame our Realism in dealing with the refugee crisis. In this instance, however he suffers from a notable disadvantage, of being wrong.

Needless to say, as a researcher of foreign policy and realism, I find this argument of Western Realism a bit oversimplified. Studying the Western response deeply and empirically, one would notice, that the policy of the West to deal with the Syrian crisis was neither Realism, nor Liberal Interventionism. It has been one of shabby half-hearted indifference.

First of all, I don’t want to go into the details of policy frameworks, partly because I have written about it before, and partly because better men have commented on it, and I don’t want to add on to the literature. However, I feel compelled to point out, that an actual realist policy for Syria would be markedly different from the one we are observing presently.

First of all, Realism is amoral and solely based on State interest. However the first fallacy of this line of thought is that the West is not acting to deal with the Syria crisis as a single block. We see a Realist Britain and some specific East European countries, trying to maintain an offshore balancer role, an inward looking and isolationist America busy with Hillary’s email skulduggery and an insufferable Donald Trump and his twitter hordes, and a terribly liberal Germany and Sweden, now facing a shocking reality check about their own demographic unrest.

A Realist policy for Syria therefore would actually be somewhat like this.

  1. Form a no-fly zone in northern Levantine sea coast, to carve out an area, which can house genuine refugees.
  1. Train the fighting age men and boys (almost 70 percent according to a startling UNHCR report), and send them back to fight ISIS. Accept the women, children and war infirm, the genuine refugees, rather than the economic migrants. That’s what India did during the 1971 waragainst Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
  2. During the 1815 Barbary wars, a joint naval British-Dutch taskforce, under Lord Edward Pellew negotiated with the Algerian human traffickers with “shots and nothing but shots”. It bombed and destroyed the human trafficking network. There’s a lesson for the policy makers for Syria while dealing with overcrowded boats carrying refugees to Europe.
  3. European navies with their overwhelming superiority should put up a Mediterranean blockade similar to the Second World War.
  4. Help the Kurds to carve out a state of their own. The old boundaries from the Sykes-Picot agreement are invalid, and it would be prudent to accept that and make policies based on new facts in the ground. Give the Peshmerga weapons to battle it out with the ISIS. The Kurdish forces are the most modern, egalitarian and secular fighting force in the entire Middle East. They are an asset to the West.
  5. Finally, keep an eye on Russia and Iran, but don’t try to stop them. This is the Middle East’s version of the Thirty years war going on. Having Russia and Iran try and balance the Middle East will have its own advantages. There will be an opportunity to study Iranian and Russian forces in actual combat and COIN operations, even if they get bogged down, without direct loss of money and manpower for the West. As Kenneth Waltz wrote before his death, power begs to balance itself. If Russia and Iran balances against the Wahhabi forces, Jihadists and Islamists, at the cost of their money and lives, nothing wrong in that.

However, as we can see, this is not what the West is doing, obviously. In place of an actual Realist grand-strategy, we are caught winging it, with heavy rhetoric about saving human lives, and stopping the war, and having a democratic middle east, while being simultaneously completely ambivalent to the ground realities.

Now, I write these policies as a researcher of Realism, being detached from my emotional considerations. I know I might be coloured heartless for that, but this is a purely academic discussion. I feel horrible seeing the photo of Aylan Kurdi as much as the next man with conscience and sanity. But drafting policy is not an emotional job. It is not activism. It is prudence, pragmatism, logic and reasoning, and a clear assessment of goals and capabilities. Hopefully foreign policy mavens or commentators keep that in mind.


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