13 November 2012

David Petraeus' mistress: What we know about Paula Broadwell

It didn't take long for the press to unearth the woman who fell for Petraeus and then inadvertently helped bring down his career 


Published November 12, 2012


Petraeus and Broadwell photographed together in July 2011: The two reportedly began their affair shortly after Petraeus began heading the CIA in September 2011. Photo: AP Photo/ISAF 

On Nov. 9, CIA Director David Petraeus' sudden resignation, and the extramarital affair cited as the cause of his downfall, shocked just about everyone. The FBI uncovered the affair during a months-long investigation of "threatening and harassing" emails to a woman close to Petraeus, from a sender who turned out to be the retired general's paramour, Paula Broadwell. But most of Washington didn't learn about the relationship until last week. Once the surprise wore off that a celebrated general "known as a brainy ascetic," married for 38 years, would end his storied career in so tawdry a manner, say Scott Shane and Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times — and that, "in jaundiced Washington," an extramarital affair could destroy such a career — curiosity shifted to Broadwell, the 40-year-old married mother of two who wrote a glowing biography of Petraeus, 60. (Watch her promote her book on The Daily Show below.) Here's what we know so far about the woman whose zealous devotion to Petraeus inadvertently helped end his CIA career: 

What's Broadwell's story?


From all accounts, Paula Broadwell is a hardworking overachiever. A top athlete, homecoming queen, and high school valedictorian in her hometown of Bismarck, N.D., Broadwell attended West Point, rose to the level of major after a decade in the Army, then resigned to pursue postgraduate degrees at Harvard and King's College, London. She met her husband, Dr. Scott Broadwell, a radiologist, while both were active military and stationed in Germany. They have two young sons and live in an upscale neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C. The family was away from home, celebrating Paula Broadwell's 40th birthday with friends in Virginia, when the news broke; they have made no statement to the media. 

How did she and Petraeus meet?


Broadwell met then–Lt. Gen. Petraeus when she was earning her master's degree at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and he was giving a speech. She introduced herself at a small dinner gathering following the speech, told him of her interests in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, and he gave her his card and offered to help. Soon after, she decided to write her dissertation on his leadership style, and he agreed to cooperate. In 2010, when Petraeus was named top commander in Afghanistan, Broadwell decided to turn her dissertation into a book, teamed up with newspaper editor Vernon Loeb, and landed a book deal. She traveled to Afghanistan six times to interview Petraeus and his aides, earning what his team viewed as extraordinary access to the general. The book, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, came out in January. 

When did the affair start?


A close friend of the Petraeus family tells The New York Times that Broadwell and Petraeus began their sexual relationship after he retired from the military in 2011, about two months after he started his job at the CIA. Extramarital affairs are a crime under the uniform code military justice, but not at the CIA. The affair reportedly ended about four months ago. 

What do we know about her "threatening" emails?


Not much. The target of them was Jill Kelley, 37, an unofficial social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. — where Kelley lives with her husband, Scott. The base houses the U.S. military's Central Command, which Petraeus once headed, and Special Operations Command. According to various anonymous sources, Broadwell viewed Kelley as a rival for Petraeus' affections or loyalty, and accused her of inappropriate flirting with the CIA chief. A former Petraeus associate tells the The Associated Press that the Kelley and Petraeus families are friends, and that David and Jill were not having an affair. 

Why did the FBI get involved?


Kelley contacted a friend who is an FBI agent, and he funneled the inquiry to the local office and federal prosecutors to see if it constituted cyber-stalking. FBI agents traced the harassing messages to Broadwell, and while reading through Broadwell's emails found sexually explicit correspondence from a personal account they traced to Petraeus. After carefully determining that Petraeus' account hadn't been hacked, agents confronted Petraeus and Broadwell. Both admitted to the affair, and convinced the FBI that no secret-leaking or national-security issues were at stake. The Justice Department informed Petraeus' boss, Director of National Security James Clapper, of the affair at about 5 p.m. on Election Night, and Clapper urged Petraeus to step down. He tendered his resignation on Thursday, and President Obama accepted it on Friday. 

What happens now?


Petraeus sidestepped a long, drawn-out, well-worn Washington drama by resigning so quickly. The conventional wisdom is that the affair ended presidential aspirations the retired general always said he didn't have, but that his stature in Washington is such that he can enter public life again if he wants to. The battle over Broadwell's reputation, on the other hand, "might as well be taking place on some 15-year-old's Facebook page," says Hannah Rosin at Slate. Her neighbors and supporters paint her as a dedicated mother and misunderstood, prolific advocate for wounded vets; her detractors, many of them in Petraeus' military circle, view her as a fame-hungry harlot who seduced a great man and ruined his career. Rosin continues

Which one is she, slutty witch or good witch? Which is the real Paula Broadwell? Such are the unsophisticated questions the nation always asks itself about women at the center of sex scandals, just as if we all had never met anyone who has had an affair or read about such a thing in a novel, and did not understand that these situations are often complicated. Is it possible that Paula Broadwell walked her two sons to the bus stop and then went home and wrote threatening emails to another woman who was or wasn't also having some kind of relationship with Petraeus? Possible and in fact probable. Not all mistresses come in cartoonishly mistress-like packages such as, say, Rielle Hunter.

FBI Agent in Petraeus Case Under Scrutiny



WASHINGTON—A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe. 

After being blocked from the case, the agent continued to press the matter, relaying his concerns to a member of Congress, the officials said. 

New details about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the case suggest that even as the bureau delved into Mr. Petraeus's personal life, the agency had to address conduct by its own agent—who allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman involved in the case prior to the investigation. 


  

Jill Kelley leaves her house Monday. 

FBI officials declined to identify the agent, so he couldn't be reached to give his side of the story. The agent is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI, according to two officials familiar with the matter. 

The revelations address how the investigation first began and ultimately led to Mr. Petraeus's downfall as director of the CIA. The new developments also raise questions about the role played by the FBI and the adequacy of notification to administration and congressional leaders about the scandal. 

The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation. 

However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials. 

One official said the agent in question sent shirtless photos to Ms. Kelley well before the email investigation began, and FBI officials only became aware of them some time later. Eventually, supervisors told the agent he was to have nothing to do with the case, though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the official said. 


  

Paula Broadwell, at the center of the Petraeus case, poses with her biography of the former CIA Chief in January. 

The agent, after being barred from the case, contacted a member of Congress, Washington Republican David Reichert, because he was concerned senior FBI officials were going to sweep the matter under the rug, the officials said. That information was relayed to top congressional officials, who notified FBI headquarters in Washington. 

By that point, FBI agents had determined the harassing emails had been sent by Paula Broadwell, who had written a biography of Mr. Petraeus's military command. 

Investigators had also determined that Ms. Broadwell had been having an affair with Mr. Petraeus, and that the emails suggested Ms. Broadwell was suspicious of Ms. Kelley's attention to Mr. Petraeus, officials said. 

The accusatory emails, according to officials, were sent anonymously to an account shared by Ms. Kelley and her husband. Ms. Broadwell allegedly used a variety of email addresses to send the harassing messages to Ms. Kelley, officials said. 

One asked if Ms. Kelley's husband was aware of her actions, according to officials. In another, the anonymous writer claimed to have watched Ms. Kelley touching "him'' provocatively underneath a table, the officials said. 

The message was referring to Mr. Petraeus, but that wasn't clear at the time, officials said. A lawyer for Ms. Kelley didn't respond to messages Monday seeking comment on the anonymous emails or on the alleged emails from the FBI agent. A lawyer for Ms. Broadwell also didn't respond. Neither woman has replied to requests to speak about the matter. 

By then, what began as a relatively simple cyberstalking case had ballooned into a national security investigation. Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell, both of them married, had set up private Gmail accounts to contact each other, according to several officials familiar with the investigation. The FBI at one point was concerned the CIA director's email had been accessed by outsiders. 

After agents interviewed Ms. Broadwell, she let them examine her computer, where they found copies of classified documents, according to the officials. Both Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell denied that he had given her the documents, and FBI officials eventually concluded they had no evidence to suggest otherwise. 

Even as the probe of the relationship between Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell intensified in late summer and early fall, authorities were able to eventually rule out a security breach, though intelligence officials became concerned Mr. Petraeus had left himself exposed to possible blackmail, according to officials. 

A day after the Nov. 6 election, intelligence officials presented their findings to the White House. Mr. Petraeus met with White House officials last Thursday and announced his resignation the following day. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have questioned whether Mr. Petraeus needed to resign over the affair, and some have argued that the FBI should have alerted both the White House and Congress much earlier to the potential security implications surrounding Mr. Petraeus. 

In a separate twist in the tangled matter of Mr. Petraeus's resignation, the CIA disputed a theory advanced by Ms. Broadwell that insurgents may have attacked the U.S. consulate and a CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 in a bid to free militants being held there by the agency. Ms. Broadwell suggested that rationale for the consulate attack in an address at the University of Denver on Oct. 26. 

"I don't know if a lot of you had heard this, but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think the attack on the consulate was an attempt to get these prisoners back," she said then. "It's still being vetted." 

A CIA spokesman said there were no militant prisoners there, noting that President Barack Obama ended CIA authority to hold detainees in 2009. "Any suggestion that the agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless," said the spokesperson. 

Some critics pointed to Ms. Broadwell's remarks in Denver as an indication that she may have been passing on classified information, leading to speculation that Mr. Petraeus may have been the source. Based on descriptions by U.S. officials, the romantic relationship had ended by then. 

In addition, the source of her comment may not have been intelligence information, but news reports. Earlier in her address, she cited findings of a report that day by Fox News. Immediately after, she mentioned the possibility that the CIA had held militants at the site, which the Fox report also mentioned. 

The Sept. 11 consulate attack resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. One person briefed on U.S. intelligence said that reports focused on two main motives for the attack: inspiration from the violent protest that day at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and the exhortation of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri to avenge the death of his second in command. The possibility of attackers trying to free detainees never came up, this person said. 

This week, lawmakers are slated to receive a series of closed-door briefings on both Benghazi and the FBI investigation that turned up the affair between Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has one such briefing on Benghazi scheduled Tuesday. On Wednesday, leaders of the House intelligence committee—Rep. Michael Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the panel and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat—will be briefed by FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and acting CIA director Michael Morell. 

Senate intelligence committee staffers are working to schedule similar briefings. On Thursday, both the House and Senate intelligence committees were already slated to receive testimony on Benghazi from top intelligence and law-enforcement officials. The investigation that uncovered the affair is now expected to also be a central issue at those hearings, which won't be public. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who chairs the Senate intelligence committee complained Sunday that she and her colleagues should have been told of the Petraeus-Broadwell affair when the FBI discovered it because of national-security concerns.

Should our top spies be using Gmail?

Posted By John Reed Monday, November 12, 2012 


In light of the Gmail-related scandal involving former CIA chief David Petraeus, one has to wonder if, given the relative ease by which an intelligence agency -- or just about anybody -- can break into a private email account, government officials entrusted with the nation's most sensitive information should be allowed to keep personal email accounts while in office? 

True, Petraeus' email was never actually broken into or hacked by the FBI. Agents gained access to his naughty notes by monitoring Paula Broadwell's email and then asking Broadwell if she was having an affair with Petraeus. She fessed up and gave them access to her computer and with it, even more of his emails. Nevertheless, the very revelation that our nation's top spy used at least one relatively unsecure Gmail account has prompted people to raise the above question

I recall being surprised over the years when at least one of Petraeus' predecessors would reply to my emails from a gasp, AOL email account (I can't remember what email provider other former CIA directors used, but they were equally pedestrian). It just seems a little odd that these people with access to incredible secrets use the same email services the rest of us do. (Don't you just expect former spy chiefs to use some tricked out, semi-creepy, super-secret email? Maybe that's just me.) 

If hacked, these emails could reveal plenty about the personal lives of their owners. Hackers probably wouldn't find state secrets, but they could find plenty of personal information -- travel plans, info about friends and family, online purchases, bank accounts, the list goes on and on. As Google knows for business purposes, a look at someone's email can paint a pretty valuable picture of who they are. Google uses this information to sell ads tailored to your interests. You can imagine what spies would do with it. 

Still, there are questions about what type of service officials could use -- perhaps something like Hushmail or TigerText or some NSA-furnished email -- and how effective it would be. Would these texts and emails be monitored by the FBI for intrusions? (This would raise some interesting privacy issues, especially for the acquaintances of the government officials.) Even if our top government officials use secure services for their personal emails and texts, is it realistic to assume that their personal information could be kept safe if their acquaintances are using unsecure email and texting services? 

One noted IT security expert familiar with the intelligence world that I spoke with said that while it's surprising that officials such as CIA directors use Gmail and the like, it would be challenging to develop a secure method for them to transmit private information. 

"I don't really think the government has the ability to deploy something like that, and one of the reasons why people use these [private] systems is they don't want that same level of monitoring going on with their private emails that they would get under any government supplied system," said the expert. 

The expert recommended that CIA directors and the like take a page from private business executives playbook and use Gmail's two step authentication system, which is, according to him much more secure than competitors such as Yahoo (the result of a major hacking Google suffered in 2009), and then hire an outside company to scan their laptops, smartphones, and tablets for intrusions every few days. "You tell ‘em don't log into the hotel PC, don't log into the airport kiosk, none of that kind of stuff." 

These frequent scans are vitally important since they will be one of the only ways to protect against spear-phishing attacks by foreign intelligence agencies that have hijacked the email accounts of a VIP's acquaintances. 

At the end of the day, the expert reiterated that public officials should simply keep sensitive info out of their email. 

"What could somebody find if they just logged into your email one day," he said. "Is your social security number in any of the emails, your tax return? I go through periodically and I just purge everything I can find." 

One government official who seems to get this is Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who doesn't use email, partially out of concerns about its vulnerability to hacking.

Shaken, Not Stirred by CIA 'Values' Why do the CIA director's peccadilloes rile us more than his policies?

BY DAVID ROTHKOPF | NOVEMBER 12, 2012 


James Bond is clearly a sociopath. He disposes of human life and property with abandon. He consumes women like they were snack foods. Of course, he does all this in the service of Queen and country, so we forgive him his disregard for most of the values we hold dear. And because he does it with a certain élan, impeccably tailored suits, and a well-turned quip to go with every kill shot, for 50 years he has been one of those iconic characters men wanted to be and women wanted to be with. 

Even in the latest installment in the Bond saga, Skyfall, which opened in the United States last week, Daniel Craig, whose Bond is the best and most nuanced of all the incarnations of Ian Fleming's super-spy, shows his human side not so much by revealing conscience or qualms about what he does but rather by appearing wearied by all the mayhem he has had to stir up and endure. Which is apparently fine by all of us -- Skyfall has already grossed more than half a billion dollars worldwide and is setting box-office records for the series. 

The real question is: Do we love Bond because of his yacht and fast-car propelled globe-trotting lifestyle (he seems to be the only one who can dependably find casinos that are glamorous rather than being full of fat old losers playing the slots), or because he is actually able to get away with blowing so much stuff up without having to pay for it? 

It all seems like an escapist ideal, a parallel universe in which all morality has been suspended except for the bits that don't get in the way of fun and a good story. In fact, ennobling patriotism is fine because it seems to provide the free pass that in the end is Bond's license to kill, love ‘em and leave ‘em, and tear open passenger trains with a back-hoe. It is preposterous. Fiction. And so of course, the only thing more preposterous is real life. 

That was made clear when, in a tour de force of movie marketing that surpassed even this summer's stunt of having Bond and the Queen seemingly enter the Olympic stadium via parachute, America's real-life spy chief commanded the headlines with his own Bond-like behavior. David Petraeus, one of the most heralded American generals of the post-World War II period, was brought down as head of the CIA because, as everyone now knows, he had an affair with his glamorous biographer. (Glamour is relative. But the bar set by most biographers is fairly low and, Petraeus's lover, Paula Broadwell had extremely well-toned upper arms according to the assessments of every woman I have spoken with on the subject.) Citing his principles, Petraeus stepped down from his post rather than bring any further dishonor upon it. 

Now, many people I know and respect greatly consider Petraeus to be an extremely admirable, capable, and intelligent guy. But the notion that the violation of anyone's "principles" led to his resignation is laughable. Further, the idea that an affair involving the CIA director would trigger a national scandal when the daily activities of the agency do not is ludicrous bordering on offensive. 

What was at stake here was priggishness, not values. As others have pointed out, many of Petraeus's predecessors have had affairs as have many of their bosses and colleagues in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or elsewhere in public life. That periodically, as in the case of Petraeus or, before that Bill Clinton, some such private peccadilloes trigger scandal and many others do not, is one sign that something other than consistent application of national values is at work here. But the fact that recently the parade of public figures who have seen their careers brought to an end because of sexual misconduct has been so long -- stretching from John Edwards to an airport men's room stall in the Upper Midwest -- is a source of bewilderment and ridicule in other nations worldwide, where they hold the quaint notion that private behavior of public officials that does not affect the way they do their jobs should remain private. 

It is not news that America has long been willing to chart a course quite different from that of other nations. We've always had a bit of a puritanical streak, which we have spun in our own minds into a sign of national character. But it is a different dimension of American exceptionalism that makes this whole Petraeus dust-up truly gross rather than merely ridiculous. 

The real scandal here is that when the head of the CIA sleeps with someone who is not his wife, it causes a national scandal, but when the agency manages a drone program that serially violates the sovereignty of nations worldwide, that it helps formulate and then execute "kill lists" that make James Bond's most egregious sprees of violence look a kindergarten birthday party, it does not. 

Our values are, it seems, even more twisted than Bond's. At least he is not so grotesquely hypocritical. It has long riled some among us that Congress thought it appropriate to impeach Bill Clinton over trivialities associated with his personal missteps, while never once challenging George W. Bush for the far greater misdeeds and very likely crimes associated with America's invasion of Iraq. We seem to be a nation that can tolerate the violation of the law, the deaths of innocents, and the gross misallocation of national assets without blinking an eye -- provided that the architects of such egregious wrongs keep their flies zipped. 

Who says it's Hollywood that's screwing up America's values? We seem to be outdoing the world's finest screenwriters on that front -- and doing so without any of the charm or crisp one-liners that allow us to forgive movie wantons like James Bond. 

David Rothkopf is CEO and editor at large of Foreign Policy

Why Petraeus's Affair Matters (but Bill Clinton's Didn't)

By Kathleen J. McInnis 

In the military, there's very little distinction between public and private life.



Along with millions who have lived and worked with members of the military, I was shocked when General Petraeus resigned on Friday. While it's a personal tragedy, it's only one of a number of body blows our military community has absorbed over the past couple of years. One blow: concerns about the erosion of the military family. Another: scandals (sexual, financial or otherwise) dogging our military's leaders. All of this is occurring as our country fights two major wars, one still ongoing. These are intimately interconnected issues that, taken together, make me wonder whether we are seeing the warning signs of a military stretched to its breaking point. 

First, on families. Both inside and out of the national security community, many are questioning whether military adultery should be a big deal. Hasn't society become more tolerant of extramarital affairs? Clinton got a pass, Eisenhower had a mistress, former CIA Director Dulles had "hundreds" of extramarital flings. They're human, after all. Shouldn't service members be able to resolve these personal matters without facing professional ramifications? 

Reflecting on my experiences, I have to say no. Not too long ago I dated an Army guy, and for a good portion of the time we were together, he was in Iraq. That year was filled with sleepless nights waiting for his phone calls. Worrying day in and day out about improvised explosive devices. About whether he would come home safely, in one piece. Trying to figure out how to help him manage things like moving into his new house—things he couldn't possibly do while deployed in Iraq. Breaking down and crying in front of my friends and family. 

I experienced a tiny fraction of the worrying, the waiting that military spouses face. I had it easy. Husbands and wives often assume the role of caring for other members of their community left at home while their soldiers deploy. And they do this in addition to single-handedly taking care of the kids, their own careers (if they have them), and making sure the home front doesn't go to hell. The partners of military leaders probably have it the worst: they are often required to manage the funeral arrangements for fallen soldiers. The spouse who remains home often manages all aspects of the service member's life, enabling them to focus exclusively on serving our nation while in harm's way. And in my experience, they do all this with stoicism and grace, masking that quiet fear that their partner may not come home alive. These are special people. The occasional martini must help. 

Given the division of labor between military partnerships, it's crucial to cultivate the bonds of trust between warfighters and their spouses. These family teams jointly shoulder the load of national service. The military rightly prioritizes the importance of strengthening these bonds; it's the glue that holds our military together—especially as couples grapple with multiple deployments. Adultery, therefore, has both personal and professional ramifications. 

Divorce isn't always due to adultery, of course. Still, the trends are worrying. Data published by the Pentagon suggests that multiple deployments are taking their toll across the force and their families. The military divorce rate for 2011 alone was 3.7 percent. It may seem like a small number, but it adds up over the years. By contrast, the civilian divorce rate has been declining since 2000, reported at 3.5 percent in 2009. After spending so much time away from each other, families are finding it harder and harder to stay together. Military families are increasingly becoming a casualty of war. 

I cannot imagine how military spouses must feel right now, the deep-down questions some must have. Especially since the Petraeus scandal is just one of several high-profile examples of extramarital spirit quests by leaders in our national security establishment. Colonel James Johnson, former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was convicted of bigamy and fraud after it was revealed that he married his Iraqi mistress while deployed. Naval Commander Michael Ward was relieved for faking his own death to end an extramarital affair that he began through an online profile he created on match.com. The trial of Brigadier General Sinclair of the 82nd Airborne is currently underway; he is charged with adultery with female subordinates (among other things). 

As a result of these high-profile missteps, will military spouses increasingly second guess whether their loved ones are being faithful while deployed to far-flung areas? It may be an unfair question when considering that many do, in fact, remain faithful. But like it or not, incidents like these sow doubt in one's mind. Perhaps more importantly, if trust breaks down between our military's leaders and their spouses, why should the American public trust them with the lives of our service personnel? 

Some argue that leaders of other large organizations—CEOs for example—are rarely reprimanded for sexual indiscretions. Why should military leaders? This is a false analogy. CEOs are not expected to lead men and women in to battle, possibly to their deaths. CEOs rarely have responsibility to the American people for the care and welfare of an entire community of subordinates, including soldiers and their families. This is why it is so important to hold military leaders accountable when they violate rules governing their conduct. There's very little distinction between private and professional conduct when it comes to the military. 

All of this raises a larger point about our military's leadership. In addition to the sex scandals, these days it seems not a week goes by without a terrible story surfacing about senior leader misconduct. The staff surrounding General McChrystal who mouthed off about their Commander in Chief; former U.S. Africa Commander General Ward who was found to have misused government funds. The Lieutenant General in charge of the Missile Defense Agency, dismissed due to his toxic leadership style ("management by blowtorch"). At least 22 Naval officers have been relieved of command because of a wide variety of indiscretions. The list goes on. 

What is happening? The military is America's most respected institution. But it seems like a growing roster of military leaders are gambling with our nation's trust in them. People charged with life or death decisions should behave in a manner commensurate with their leadership responsibilities. 

This article available online at: 

The commanding heights of Nehru

 Ramachandra Guha 

November 13, 2012 




The deeds and misdeeds of his descendants prevent many in India from fully appreciating the political vision of the country’s first Prime Minister 

The most admired human being on the planet may be a one-time boxer named Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. To spend three decades in prison fighting racial oppression, and then guide and oversee the peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy, surely ranks as the greatest personal achievement since the end of the Second World War. 

For the capaciousness of his vision and the generosity of his spirit, Nelson Mandela has sometimes been compared to Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Mandela is both a reconciling figure and a universal figure, admired across the social spectrum in his own land and in other lands too. There are also odd personal details that bind them: Mandela was a friend of Gandhi’s second son Manilal, Mandela and Gandhi were both lawyers, Mandela and Gandhi both lived in Johannesburg, Mandela and Gandhi were both incarcerated in that city’s Fort Prison. This prison now houses South Africa’s Constitutional Court, on whose premises one can find permanent exhibits devoted to the life and example of Mandela and of Gandhi. 

Appealing and impressive 

Mandela’s comrade Ahmad Kathrada, his fellow prisoner in Robben Island, once asked why he admired Gandhi. Mandela answered: “But Nehru was my hero.” To his biographer Anthony Sampson, Mandela explained his preference as follows: “When a Maharaja tried to stop him he [Nehru] would push him aside. He was that type of man, and we liked him because his conduct indicated how we should treat our own oppressors. Whereas Gandhi had a spirit of steel, but nevertheless it was shown in a very gentle and smooth way, and he would rather suffer in humility than retaliate.” 

In the 1940s, Mandela closely read Jawaharlal Nehru’s books, including his autobiography. His speeches often quoted from Nehru’s writings. A phrase that particularly resonated was “there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere,” used by Mandela in his first major political speech, made in September 1953. Decades later, the phrase found its way into Mandela’s autobiography, whose Nehruvian title is “Long Walk to Freedom.” 

In 1980, Nelson Mandela was given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. Since Mandela was in prison, his comrade Oliver Tambo — who had left South Africa to canvass support overseas, while travelling on an Indian passport — came to New Delhi to accept the award on his behalf. “Nelson Mandela’s captors may wish to ponder the fact,” remarked Tambo in his speech, “that Jawaharlal Nehru, who was no stranger to imprisonment and was in no way destroyed by it, served the world community, including the British, far better as a free man than as a political prisoner. Nelson Mandela’s 18 years’ imprisonment has in no way destroyed him, and will not.” 

Jawaharlal Nehru appealed to Mandela and Tambo on account of his political views. As a socialist and modernist, Nehru’s ideas were, to these South African radicals, more congenial than Gandhi’s. But there was also a practical reason for their appreciation; the fact that, as Prime Minister of India, Nehru worked tirelessly to arraign the apartheid regime in the court of world opinion. Thus, as Tambo noted in his speech in New Delhi in 1980, “if Mahatma Gandhi started and fought his heroic struggle in South Africa and India, Jawaharlal Nehru was to continue it in Asia, Africa and internationally. In 1946, India broke trade relations with South Africa — the first country to do so. Speaking at the Bandung Conference in April 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru declared: ‘There is nothing more terrible than the infinite tragedy of Africa in the past few hundred years.”’ 

Shortly after the Bandung Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Soviet Union. When he spoke at Moscow University, in the audience was a young law student named Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Decades later, Gorbachev recalled the impact Nehru’s speech made on him. “Obviously, we [students] were still very far from understanding the principles of democracy,” he wrote in his memoirs: “Yet, the simplified black-and-white picture of the world as presented by our propaganda was even then considered rather sceptically by the students. Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Moscow in June 1955 was an unexpected stimulus for me in this respect. … This amazing man, his noble bearing, keen eyes and warm and disarming smile, made a deep impression on me.” 

Thirty years after hearing Nehru speak in Moscow, Gorbachev helped bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War while permitting a transition to democracy in Eastern Europe. Unlike Soviet rulers in 1956, 1968 and 1979, he did not send troops into Soviet satellites whose people wanted an end to Stalinist one-party regimes. It appears the early exposure to Jawaharlal Nehru played at least some part in the reformist and reconciling politics of the mature Gorbachev. 

I quote these appreciations for three reasons: because they are little-known, because Mandela and Gorbachev are both considerable figures, and because their admiration runs counter to the widespread disapprobation of Nehru among large sections of India’s youth, middle-class, and intelligentsia. 

Turning anti-Nehruvian 

Greatly admired within India during his lifetime, Nehru witnessed a precipitous fall in his reputation after his death. This accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, when his ideas on the economy, on foreign affairs, and on social harmony all came under sharp attack. There was a vigorous campaign to free entrepreneurs from all forms of state control and regulation; a major, countrywide movement to redefine Indian secularism by making it more “Hindu” in theory and practice; and a clamour from the media and business elite to abandon India’s non-alignment in favour of an ever closer relationship with the United States. 

India has experimented now with 20 years of anti-Nehruvian policies in economics, social affairs, and foreign policy. These radical shifts have shown mixed results. Creative capitalism is being increasingly subordinated to crony capitalism; aggressive Hindutva has led to horrific riots and the loss of many lives; and the United States has not shown itself to be as willing to accommodate India’s interests as our votaries of a special relationship had hoped. 

His ideas remain relevant 

Among reflective Indians, there is a sense that these decades of Nehru-bashing have been somewhat counterproductive. It is true that Nehru was excessively suspicious of entrepreneurs, yet some form of state regulation is still required in a complex and unequal society. His ideas of religious and linguistic pluralism remain entirely relevant, or else India would become a Hindu Pakistan. And it suits India’s interests to have good relations with all major powers — China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States — rather than hitch its wagon to the U.S. alone. 

Nehru’s respect for democratic procedure, his inclusive social vision, and his independent foreign policy all remain relevant. Other aspects of his legacy are more problematic: these include his neglect of primary education, his lack of interest in military matters, and his scepticism of political decentralisation. However, a balanced appreciation of Nehru’s legacy — its positive and its negative aspects — is inhibited by the fact that the ruling Congress Party is controlled so closely by individuals related to him and who claim to speak in his name. 

In a recent interview to The Hindu, Nayantara Sahgal pointed out that it was Indira Gandhi who created the “Nehru-Gandhi” dynasty, not her father. This is absolutely true. In a book published in 1960, the editor Frank Moraes (by that time a sharp critic of the Prime Minister) wrote that “there is no question of Nehru’s attempting to create a dynasty of his own; it would be inconsistent with his character and career.” When Nehru died in 1964, another bitter critic, D.F. Karaka, nonetheless praised his resolve “not to indicate any preference with regard to his successor. This, [Nehru] maintained, was the privilege of those who were left behind. He himself was not concerned with that issue.” 

Living outside India, insulated in their daily lives from the consequences of the deeds or misdeeds of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi, both Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev could appreciate the sagacity and moral depth of Nehru’s political vision. We who live in India are however inhibited from doing so by the unfortunate accident whereby control of our most powerful political party has passed on to Nehru’s descendants. 

(Ramachandra Guha’s new book, Patriots and Partisans, has just been published by Penguin/Allen Lane. E-mail: ramachandraguha@yahoo.in)

Ducking the trend


November 13, 2012 

 Hema Yadav 

Women in Assam are transforming their lives through backyard duck rearing
 
RIPPLE EFFECT:Duck rearing has brought prosperity.PHOTO: Ritu Raj Konwar. 

Moni Barua of Gumoria village in Assam owns 30 ducks of Chara and Chemballi breeds. These ducks have transformed her life by giving her extra earnings of Rs 10,000 to 15,000 every month. She owns a loom and aspires to be trained to create new designs and motifs on the traditional mekhala chadar which women weave in the State.

Backyard duck rearing, a traditional income generating activity of Assam, could not be sustained due to low productivity of indigenous ducks. But ever since State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Assam introduced new breeds of ducks in 2003, women members of self help groups found a meaningful way of supporting their livelihoods. Women of this small tribal village took the initiative of making themselves self-reliant through the rearing of backyard ducks.

Chara and Chemballi, two highly productive duck breeds of Kerala, were introduced by the Kerala Agricultural University scientists in Assam. They are now making significant contributions to the socio-economic empowerment of duck farmers in rural areas of the State. In 2003 SIRD intervened by forming women SHGs in Gumoria and supported each group with Rs 10,000, of which Rs 7000 was given in cash and Rs 3000 in kind, in the form of one day old chicks (ODC) along with 50 kg of feed for the chicks. Every woman got eight to 10 chicks and were trained in how to take care of them, how to vaccinate and medicate the birds. The institute supplied injections and arranged a visit by a doctor for inspecting the health of the birds. The women are now aware that during extreme hot and humid climate condition, ducks fall sick and need to be given vitamins and B complex. “Ducks can go lame if they are deficient in minerals and vitamins,” says Renu Deka who is extra cautious about her fleet’s health. The indigenous birds produce 40 eggs a year whereas the new breed of Chara and Chemballi lays 26-27 eggs per month. Once a year, for two months, these birds change feathers and do not lay eggs. The production cost of an egg is Rupee one and it sells at doorsteps for Rs four. An SIRD facilitator collects the eggs in an auto van from the village and gets paid Re one per egg for the service. SIRD sells these eggs through its outlets and also buys back quality eggs for hatching.

Each SHG has 15-20 ducks and the economics prove to be a good cost benefit ratio. There are now 50 SHGs who are active in this business. These SHGs have been able to earn more than Rs one crore in the past three years. SHG members contribute Rs 50 to Rs 100 per month to the group. Impressed by the SHGs business enterprise, some national banks have also come forward to extend loans.

Someshwari Bharali own 30 ducks and sells around 900 eggs a month. Her SHG owns a broiler farm and also has a cloth weaving centre. Many women have been able to repay bank loans from the earnings from duck rearing. Renu Bharali was able to pay Rs 8000 to get her land out of mortgage and is now relieved of the debt. She now wants to send her son to do a paramedical course.

This initiative has mobilised social capital and lead to the self reliance of rural folks apart from fulfilling the needs and aspirations of rural women. As they move up the social ladder they are able to free themselves from loans, increase assets, learn new skills, open new enterprises, and educate their children, buy gadgets and vehicles. The ripple effect of social mobilisation and empowerment has shown quick changes in the quality of life of these villagers.

What Makes a Great General?

FP contributors on Tom Ricks' new book. 

NOVEMBER 12, 2012 





This week, FP presents a running discussion of Best Defense blogger Tom Ricks' new book, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today

Tom's last two books were deeply reported examinations of the Iraq War. In The Generals, he casts a historical net and finds that the quality of military leadership has declined since the days of Eisenhower and Marshall, as the Army has increasingly failed to punish failure or reward ingenuity. 

Initial reviews have been wildly positive. Here's what Publisher's Weekly -- which awarded Tom his own star -- had to say: 


"[A] savvy study of leadership. Combining lucid historical analysis, acid-etched portraits of generals from 'troublesome blowhard' Douglas MacArthur to 'two-time loser' Tommy Franks, and shrewd postmortems of military failures and pointless slaughters such as My Lai, the author demonstrates how everything from strategic doctrine to personnel policies create a mediocre, rigid, morally derelict army leadership... Ricks presents an incisive, hard-hitting corrective to unthinking veneration of American military prowess." 

We'd encourage you all to pick up the book, and stay tuned for this week's discussion, which will feature a terrific line-up of reviewers, including a few generals. 

By Thomas Donnelly 

Surely one of the reasons Barack Obama was reelected as president is that many Americans, and not least our political elites, remain war weary. Even Afghanistan, the "good" war, the "war of necessity," has faded from public consciousness. The one thing we seem to remember about it is that it's "on schedule" to end in 2014. 

Similarly, our attention to men and women in uniform is fading. We still honor them at ballparks, let them board planes ahead of us -- sometimes even before the frequent-flying executives -- and are forever "thanking them for their service." But we're turning away, getting on with nation-building at home. 

Tom Ricks' new book, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, is many things: a deeply considered and researched work of history, an excellent genealogy of the Army's general officer corps, and a well-told tale. In sum, there are a host of reasons to read the book, more than this short piece can limn or even suggest. But, taken as a whole, The Generals is first and foremost a powerful argument that as a nation and as a polity we should not allow the professional military to retreat behind the camouflage netting. Indeed, now more than ever, civilians ought to concern themselves with the "profession" of arms, and particularly what happens to the U.S. Army. 

Like many other professions, the profession of arms involves a set of cultural beliefs handed down from generation to generation but molded by the quirks of strong, paradigmatic personalities. And Ricks lays this out well: the leaders of World War II begat those of Korea and Vietnam, who begat those of the modern All-Volunteer Force and Operation Desert Storm, who in turn begat those of the post-9/11 wars. The field- and company-grade officers of these wars are the future of our military, and the next decade will determine what kind of senior commanders they will be. 

Ricks' central argument -- that the quality of Army generalship has declined through the years -- is one broadly shared by today's younger officers. "America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy," wrote then- Lt. Col. Paul Yingling in a 2007 Armed Forces Journal article that became a lightning rod for the current debate. 

If this charge is true, and I think it is, it is a problem of the first order. Proper civil-military relations are critical to our democracy, particularly one that is also a global power. We can't go back to the pre-imperial past that produced George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower. Thus Ricks' remedy for what ails us -- holding leaders accountable and relieving them when they fail -- strikes me as a necessary but not sufficient condition. There is also a systemic problem with an officer training, education, and selection model designed to produce competent tacticians but indifferent if not hostile to developing strategists. Our officers are much better in battle than at war. 

It is said that amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics, and really smart guys, like Tom Ricks, talk personnel. If there were any justice in the worlds of publishing, politics, or policy, this book would outsell either of Ricks' Iraq books. It would also be a way to truly thank people in uniform for the sacrifices they make. 

Thomas Donnelly is the co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

My "top ten" books every student of International Relations should read

Posted By Stephen M. Walt Thursday, April 9, 2009 

Last week Tom Ricks offered us his "Top Ten list" of books any student of military history should read. The FP staff asked me to follow suit with some of my favorites from the world of international politics and foreign policy. What follows aren't necessarily the books I'd put on a graduate syllabus; instead, here are ten books that either had a big influence on my thinking, were a pleasure to read, or are of enduring value for someone trying to make sense of contemporary world politics. But I've just scratched the surface here, so I invite readers to contribute their own suggestions. 

1). Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War.

An all-time classic, which I first read as a college sophomore. Not only did M, S & W provide an enduring typology of different theories of war (i.e., locating them either in the nature of man, the characteristics of states, or the anarchic international system), but Waltz offers incisive critiques of these three "images" (aka "levels of analysis.") Finding out that this book began life as Waltz's doctoral dissertation was a humbling moment in my own graduate career.

2). Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Combines biology and macro-history in a compelling fashion, explaining why small differences in climate, population, agronomy, and the like turned out to have far-reaching effects on the evolution of human societies and the long-term balance of power. An exhilarating read.

3). Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence

He's a Nobel Prize winner now, so one expects a lot of smart ideas. Some of Schelling's ideas do not seem to have worked well in practice (cf. Robert Pape's Bombing to Win and Wallace Thies's When Governments Collide) but more than anyone else, Schelling taught us all to think about military affairs in a genuinely strategic fashion. (The essays found in Schelling's Strategy of Conflict are more technical but equally insightful). And if only more scholars wrote as well. 


This isn't really a book about international relations, but it's a fascinating exploration of the origins of great human follies (like Prussian "scientific forestry" or Stalinist collectivized agriculture). Scott pins the blame for these grotesque man-made disasters on centralized political authority (i.e., the absence of dissent) and "totalistic" ideologies that sought to impose uniformity and order in the name of some dubious pseudo-scientific blueprint. And it's a book that aspiring "nation-builders" and liberal interventionists should read as an antidote to their own ambitions. Reading Scott's work (to include his Weapons of the Weak and Domination and the Arts of Resistance) provided the intellectual launching pad for my book Taming American Power). 

5). David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest

Stayed up all night reading this compelling account of a great national tragedy, and learned not to assume that the people in charge knew what they were doing. Still relevant today, no?


I read this while tending bar at the Stanford Faculty Club in 1977 (the Stanford faculty weren't big drinkers so I had a lot of free time). Arguably still the best single guide to the ways that psychology can inform our understanding of world politics. Among other things, it convinced that I would never know as much history as Jervis does. I was right. 

7). John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

Why do bad things happen to good peoples? Why do "good states" do lots of bad things? Mearsheimer tells you. Clearly written, controversial, and depressingly persuasive.

8). Ernst Gellner, Nations and Nationalism

The state is the dominant political form in the world today, and nationalism remains a powerful political force. This book will help you understand where it came from and why it endures.

9). Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years & Years of Upheaval

Memoirs should always be read with a skeptical eye, and Kissinger's are no exception. But if you want some idea of what it is like to run a great power's foreign policy, this is a powerfully argued and often revealing account. And Kissinger's portraits of his colleagues and counterparts are often candid and full of insights. Just don't take it at face value.

10). Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation

Where did the modern world come from, and what are the political, economic, and social changes that it wrought? Polanyi doesn't answer every question, but he's a good place to start.

So that's ten, but I can't resist tossing in a few others in passing: Geoffrey Blainey The Causes of War; Douglas North, Structure and Change in Economic History; Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer, Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population; Robert Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations; Steve Coll, Ghost Wars; T.C.W. Blanning, The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars; R. R. Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution; Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World; Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War; Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies; Tony Smith, The Problem of Imperlalism; and Philip Knightley's The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth-Maker. And as I said, this just scratches the surface. 

So what did I miss? Keep the bar high.

(And for those of you who don't have time to read books, I'll start working on a "top ten" list of articles).

‘Let’s not be over-optimistic about Burma’


The Hindu AUNG SAN SUU KYI: "I would like would-be investors to focus on how to bring us closer together as a union. But at the same time, to be fully aware of the fact that development is no subsititute for democracy. Photo: Nirupama Subramanian 

The Hindu At a Rohingya refugee camp in Myanmar.Photo: Nirupama Subramanian 


TOPICS World Myanmar

India and the rest of the world need to understand that Myanmar is just at the beginning of the road to democracy, and that its present Constitution does not make the road smooth, says Aung San Suu Kyi 

In an interview to Nirupama Subramanian, Myanmar’s icon of democracy says that she looks forward to rebuilding democratic ties between the two countries. She arrives in India today on her first visit after almost five decades to the country where she spent her formative years. The interview took place in the Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw on October 31. 

In a few days time, you will be going to India, where you grew up, went to school, college. It’s going to be 50 years since you were last there. What are your expectations from this visit, at a personal level, and for Myanmar? 

On a personal level, I’d like to see my old friends again, and, just to talk with them, just to be with them. And I’d like to see the old places, the places where I spent time as a teenager; Lady Shri Ram College, see how it’s doing — that’s on a personal level. On a political level, I would like to establish closer relations between the peoples of our countries. I feel that perhaps in recent years we’ve grown apart as peoples, because India took a road which is different from ours, or rather we changed route. At one time both of us were dedicated democracies and we were close together, on the ideological front as well as in other ways. I’d like to see a closer relationship between our two peoples, because I’ve always felt we had a special relationship — India and Burma — because of our colonial history, and because of the fact that the leaders of our independence movement were so close to one another. 

Did it surprise you that India took a different path? 

Well, I have to tell you that nothing surprises me anymore; I’ve come across so many twists and turns of fate. I don’t think anything will surprise me anymore. Pleased, displeased, happy, unhappy maybe. But surprise, no. 

You’ve often said Gandhi and Nehru are your greatest inspirations after your father. In your own political battle of the last two decades, were you disappointed that the land of Gandhi and Nehru moved away from you? 

Disappointed? I’m trying to work out whether I’m still capable of disappointment. Yes, to a certain degree, I was disappointed. But on the other hand, the fact that one’s not surprised means that one’s disappointment was mitigated. In a sense what it means [is] that you had worked out in your calculations that this was a possibility. Of course, one would rather that it had not been like that. One works out what the possibilities are and of course one would prefer that possibility which is most after one’s heart, but that doesn’t always happen. And I think, sometimes I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India through my friends as well as because of the friendship that existed between my father and Jawaharlal Nehru, because of the closeness that existed between the countries. So rather than disappointed, I was sad that it had to be like that. 

How do you expect the political relationship between yourself and India to be now? 

I think this depends a lot on how far we can go towards democracy because as we progress towards democracy, I think it would be easier for official relations between the two countries to be more clear-cut. I can understand that India had some problems choosing between the opposition and the government that was in power and that happens very often in international relations. But if Burma is established as a democracy as I wish it to be, that would mitigate problems of — not inconsistency — deciding between the two sides. 

In what specific ways can India help Myanmar at this stage of its political transition? 

It’s to be able to take a good hard look at what is really happening. Not to be over-optimistic, at the same time to be encouraging of what needs to be encouraged; because I think too much optimism doesn’t help because then you ignore what is going wrong, and if you ignore what is not right, then from not right it becomes wrong. And from wrong, it gets worse. So I think good friends sometimes have to be tough. And say this is not on. 

Can you be a little more specific? 

For example, at the moment of course everybody is mainly interested in Burma because of its investment policies. I think we have to face this fairly and squarely. But investment has to be done in the right way. And also we have to keep in mind that we are just at the beginning of the road to democracy, and as I keep saying, it’s a road we have to build for ourselves. It’s not there ready and waiting. The Constitution that was adopted in 2008 was not in any way a smooth road to democracy. And we have to do all that building ourselves, and I think this needs to be recognised by India and by the rest of the world — that we are not on the smooth road to democracy. We still have to be given the chance to build the road to democracy. 

So if there is one message that you would want to give to Indian investors, what would you tell them? 

I would like to say, of course we are interested in basics such as job creation, on the job training. But I would like India to focus attention on strengthening local government. We are a union made up of many ethnic nationalities, and I would like would-be investors to focus on how to bring us closer together as a union. But at the same time, to be fully aware of the fact that development is no substitute for democracy. And that the aspirations of our ethnic nationalities go beyond mere development. 

There is a tendency to project India and China as competing for influence in Burma? How do you view this triangle? 

It’s natural that people should see it that way. There’s some truth to it. After all, these are the two giants and both happen to be our very close neighbours. But if you look back, we can take heart from the fact that Burma always retained good relations with both countries after independence, even when China was rigidly Communist and India a working democracy. And we ourselves were a democracy. And in spite of that we managed to maintain good relations with both countries. And this is something that we will always have to try to do. I always say that you can’t move away from your neighbours. You may divorce a spouse, but you can’t move away from your neighbouring country. So it’s very important that you maintain good relations. And again, I think, it’s people to people relationships which are most important. It’s not government to government. Governments come and governments go. But the peoples of the countries, they remain. And if we manage to establish genuine friendship between our peoples, then the future will be good for us. That’s not impossible. 

You spoke about not being overly optimistic, and how the 2008 Constitution was not a smooth road to democracy? What remains to be done in that respect, what milestones would you like to see covered, and in what time frame? 

Well, there are so many things to it, but roughly speaking the 2008 Constitution gives too much power to the military. The military may take over the powers of government if they think it’s necessary; and of course, 25 per cent of all the assemblies, both at the national and regional level, are made up of military nominees, unelected. It doesn’t worry me unduly, because it gives us an opportunity to engage with members of the military; but of course, it is hardly what you would call a democratic way of going about it. And then, the regional governments do not actually have real power. It’s still a very centralised system and such a centralised system is not going to promote democratic values, but more important than that, it’s not going to promote ethnic harmony. 

Would you like to see all this change before the 2015 election, is that a time frame that you are looking at? 

I think some of the most important sections will have to be amended before 2015, if 2015 is going to establish us firmly on the road to democracy. 

Would you also aim to change the provision in the Constitution that bars you from running for President? 

Yes, not because it bars me from running for the office of President, but [because] I think it’s not right that any Constitution should have been framed with one person in mind. 

Do you want to be President of Myanmar? 

I would like my party to win because it has the people behind it, and in that respect, I’d be prepared to take over the position of President. Not so much because I want to be President of a country but because I want the President of the country to be elected through the will of the people. 

You are saying you don’t want power for power’s sake… 

Oh we need power for the sake of making change. Let us not be pusillanimous about it. If we want to bring about the kind of changes we want, we need power, not power for the sake of power, but power for the opportunity of bringing about the changes we would like to bring about. 

In the last few days, there’s been concern internationally and in Myanmar that the incidents in the Rakhine region between the Buddhists and the Rohingyas may cause a setback to the process of reforms, and also there’s the other fear that it could snowball into a security threat for the entire region if it leads to the radicalisation of the people there. Do you share these worries? Are you concerned? You haven’t said much about it… 

Of course we are concerned. I think in many ways the situation has been mishandled. For years I have been insisting, and the National League for Democracy also, that we have to do something about the porous border with Bangladesh because it is going to lead some day or the other to grave problems. But nobody, of course, paid attention because the problems were not there yet. Also we have emphasised the need for law and order, the rule of law. And again, the perception was these were communal problems. 

I emphasise rule of law, one has to emphasise rule of law because communal differences are not settled overnight. In fact, they often take years to sort out. In the meantime, if they had concentrated on rule of law, they could have prevented violence and human rights violations breaking out, and that would at least have kept tensions under control. And until tensions are under control, how can we try to bring about communal harmony? You can’t. When people are committing arson, rape and murder, you can hardly ask them to sit together and talk, sort out their differences. It’s not practical. So we have to make sure these kind of troubles should not erupt in the first place, which is why I emphasise the rule of law. 

There were those who were not pleased, because they wanted me to condemn one community or the other. Both communities have suffered human rights violations, and have also violated human rights. And human rights have been grossly mishandled in the Rakhine by the government for many decades. 

What do you see as the long-term solution to the problem? 

First I think we will have to put law and order in place. I hate to use the expression ‘law and order’ because when the military took over in 1988, they called themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council; so law and order is an expression we approach with great caution. We would rather say rule of law, rule of justice — that we’ll have to establish peace and security. 

How difficult has it been for you to make the transition from being a worldwide hero and icon of democracy and freedom to a politician who has to make compromises? 

I’m glad you asked this question. I find it surprising because I’ve always been a politician. People talk as though I were sort of an icon or on a pedestal, but they seem to forget that throughout, my party and I have been criticised — of course, reviled by the military government — but criticised even by other organisations, by some countries, because we were, they said, not prepared to compromise. We were always prepared to compromise, and we’ve always offered to compromise all along the line. And I’m surprised when people say to me that now I’ve got to be a politician. I want to ask them what do you think I’ve been all these years. 

You’ve always talked about being true to principles, does it bother you that in the everyday practice of politics you may have to forsake principles for compromise? 

We’ve never had to forsake principles. There’s no need to forsake principles for compromise, especially in my case because our principles are not rigid. Our principles are very basic principles of, if you like, human and political decency. We’ve always been prepared to compromise. We’ve never stood on our pride, as it were, or on our vanity. Of course, I’ve always said negotiations mean give and take. Give and take means you give sometimes, and they give sometimes. And there are times when you have to give, times when you take. You can’t insist on being the taker all the time. And we’ve always said this. Actually, the truth is that the world has woken up to our cause only very recently, in general. They’ve been aware of what we were doing, but not really alert to what we were doing, or what our principles were, or what our stand was. Very, very few people know, the times we’ve tried to compromise with the military regime, or if they know about it, they’ve forgotten about it. 

Do you think the military is completely on board this process? When you say don’t be overly optimistic, do you fear that it hangs by the reform-mindedness of one individual, President Thein Sein? 

In fact, the President is quite apart from the military. The military is the military, and the executive is the executive. This is what I mean by saying that the Constitution is hardly democratic. So until we know the military is solidly behind the reform process, because the President certainly does not represent the military, then we can’t say this is irreversible. 

What is the test of that, for you to believe that it is irreversible? 

I think the test would be their preparedness to consider changing the sections in the Constitution that are not democratic. 

How much credit would you give to President Thein Sein for his role in this whole process? 

I think he needs to be given credit, but I do not think he’s the only one who brought it about. 

Is it Burma or Myanmar? 

Well, I think it’s up to you. I’ll explain why I use Burma. Burma was known as Burma since independence. Suddenly, after the military regime took over in 1988, one day, just like that, out of the blue, without so much as a by your leave from the people, they announced that Burma was going to be known as Myanmar in English from now on officially, and it would be Myanmar at the U.N. and so on. And the reason they gave is this, that Myanmar referred to all the peoples of this country whereas Burma, first of all, is a colonial name; and secondly, it had only to do with the ethnic Burmese. 

To begin with, I object to a country’s name being changed without reference to the will of the people, without so much as the courtesy to ask the people what they might think of it. That of course is the sort of the thing only dictatorships do. So I object it to it on those grounds. And then secondly, it’s not true that Myanmar means all the ethnic peoples of Burma. I think it’s just the literary name for Burma, which is the ethnic Burmese [usage]. And thirdly, this business of colonial name, that it is a name imposed by the colonial power, I think that is the kind of reason which is based on xenophobia rooted in lack of self-confidence. Look at India, look at China, look at Japan. The biggest most powerful nations in Asia: none of the names are native to them. And look at Indonesia, look at the Philippines. So I think this is petty and narrow-minded. And some say it was because of astrological calculations, and that of course puts my back up entirely.