Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"We will go to Mars together" -- not

I recently bought Srinath Raghavan's 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh. I rarely shell out for hardcover books, so I'm planning to read it properly, probably during my upcoming blogging break. For now, though, I've been dipping into it, reading passages here and there. On p.83 I found this:
Visiting India in the summer of 1969, Nixon reiterated to Indira Gandhi his commitment to India's economic development. "We will go to Mars together," he assured her.
India has just launched a Mars mission -- alone.


Ronan said...

Yeah it looks good, im hoping it comes out on kindle and i might get it
I assume youve read this

which was linked on LGM recently (to give an opportunity for one and all to vent at 'how evil X are how all would be perfect if Y had happened')

relatedly - talking about the oil crisis on CT the other day, you should check out The Oil Kings, if you get the chance, which gives an interesting account of Nixon/Kissingers policy in the Gulf in the late 60/early 70s and their culpability for the crisis

LFC said...

thanks for the tips.
I was away from my computer most of the day.
I will check out the Khilnani review, definitely.

LFC said...

p.s. The Oil Kings sounds interesting also.

I haven't seen the LGM discussion, but if it's as you describe, I'm not going to bother... reiterations of 'how evil' get dull, since we already know N/K don't come off well -- esp. since the relevant State Dept vols, drawn on by these bks (well, definitely by Rhagavan, presumably by Bass) were published in '05.

LFC said...


I just glanced at the Khilnani review as linked at LGM.

Bass might have "unearthed" some N/K conversations, I don't know, but based on having looked at the Rhagavan I can say that a lot of the private conversations don't have to be "unearthed" -- someone minuted them and they are right there in the pertinent vols of the State Dept's Foreign Relations of the U.S. (FRUS) series, and in this case the pertinent vols have been available since '05.

(they're also available on the web)

Ronan said...

A question I was trying to get an anwer to from djw is what alternative option vis a vis B-desh would there have been for a Dem admin (I guess they might not have armed Pakistan so willingly)
He seemed to imply - without answering - that it depended on the admin (johnson would have been substantially different than Humphrey than RFK)

Out of curiosity, how much agency do you think presidents have when responsing to these kind of events?
(you can never get a straight answer at LGM as they just resort to snark ans rhetoric)

LFC said...

I'm shortly going to be taking a break from blogging, and when I come back, in Jan/Feb/March or whenever, one of the first things I will be posting is a review of the Raghavan bk, which I will have read properly by then, and I think most of the substantive discussion is prob. best left till then.

That said, in general I think presidents have a lot of 'agency' in responding to foreign policy crises (or 'crises' if you prefer), but this crisis in particular wasn't occurring in a vacuum, and no crisis does.

It's not easy to say *precisely* what a Dem admin would have done differently (no matter who was in office) because to answer that question one also has to spin scenarios about how its overall for. policy would have differed. Though it's a bit hard to imagine any Dem, prob incl LBJ, being as completely indifferent to the humanitarian aspect of the episode as N/K apparently were. I gather from glancing at R. that a lot of what determined Nixon/Kissinger's pro-Pakistan policy was concern that a 'humiliation' of Pakistan would harm N/K's nascent opening to China. They viewed the whole thing through a Cold War frame (K referred to India as a Soviet client state) and through the frame of their grand-strategic opening to China and triangular diplomacy etc.

(Also -- re "arming Pakistan" -- N/K did a lot of things in Dec.71, incl moving the US naval task force to the Bay of Bengal, but I'm not aware that they actually sent arms to Yahya Khan *during* the crisis itself. Tho they might have... I haven't really read the SK review yet.)

Lastly, I don't think LGM is the best place to try to have this kind of discussion.
W the poss exceptipon of Farley (and maybe djw tho i doubt it), I think none of the LGM posters knows v. much about S. Asia or the hist of US f.p. in the region.

LFC said...

p.s. We shd actually exclude LBJ b/c he didn't run for re-election in '68. And RFK of course was assassinated.

Only one of two people were going to be inaugurated in Jan. '69: Nixon or Humphrey. The latter, having finally broken publicly w LBJ's Vietnam policies in a Sept 68 speech, wd have, I think, gotten out of Vietnam much more quickly than Nixon/Kissinger did. But Humphrey also might not have pursued the opening to China, for several reasons. Both N & K fancied themselves for pol 'big thinkers' and grand strategists and in a sense of course they were, tho they were also, i think, fundamentally devoid of impulses of humanity, something reinforced by K's whole approach to the world. Humphrey, by contrast, was completely different as a personality than Nixon and wd not have had a Kissinger advising him.

So the whole question becomes tangled, but I think it's fair to say that if Humphrey had become pres. in jan'69 rather than Nixon, a lot of things wd have been different...

Ronan said...

Yeah djw brought Johnson and RFK into it, Im not sure why but I think to highlight that a Democrat admin would be considerably different based on who was President. I'm willing to go with that, (and thanks for the response above as that helps clarify it), as I'm just trying to get to grips with how much room for maneuver Presidents have in international politics from one admin to another

Interestingly, in relation to the oil crisis, the book Oil Kings shows that Kissinger (and to a lesser extent Nixon) had absolutely no knowledge of or interest in economics. They were completely focussed on the big diplomatic game they were playing with the Shah and the Saudis, but repeatedly ignored warnings from the Treasury and economic experts close to the admin the oil market was changing and the Shahs economy overheating. (Which ties in with the comments you made above) Thye thought this was largely unimportant and were actually encouraging the Shah to raise oil prices so he could afford to buy weapons from the US and turn himself into a regional power (and fulfil his role vis a vis the Nixon doctrine)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to your review of the Rhagavan book. I might try and get the book read in the meantime

Ronan said...

btw, djw seemed to have an interest in, and considerable knowledge of, SE Asian history. Its more the difficulty of getting any response over there without it dissolving into snark and purposeful misreading

LFC said...

Re djw: ok, I stand corrected; I don't know that much about his interests.

LGM's style is to put up one post after another in quite rapid succession, and the tone, as you suggest, is often snarky, know-it-all-y, and we're-here-to-confirm-what-we-aready-know-and-if-you-don't-like-it-get-lost.

That kind of atmosphere -- while it's fine for a blog whose purpose is political activism (and there's certainly a place for that in the blogosphere)-- is not good for a blog which purports, as I believe LGM does, to be a venue for discussion and reasoned argument.

The snarky atmosphere, however, may also explain why their readership is as high as it is. So for the LGM posters it's a trade-off. Note also that LGM carries ads and the posters are therefore presumably making a small (I assume it's small but I don't know)amount of money from their blogging, unlike CT, which of course does not run ads and where the posters are not making any money.