Wednesday, March 08, 2006

NY Times' Asian Ego Trip

(Partially plagiarized from this NY Times Editorial. Please read both carefully.)

There is a lot of good an editor can do in writing an editorial: provide insights that enhance understanding, shore up a shaky viewpoint, simplify issues in complex parts of the debate. Unfortunately, the New York Times editor didn't do any of those good things in his just-completed editorial on Pakistan and India and may have done some real harm.

The spectacularly misconceived editorial may have inflicted serious damage to constructive debate in two vital areas, namely, mobilizing international opinion against the spread of nuclear weapons and encouraging President Bush to take more effective action against Pakistan and Al Qaeda fighters operating from its territory.

The editorial that the editor concluded with arrogant ignorance threatens to blast an ink-blot-size hole through common sense. It would have been bad enough on its own, and disastrously ill timed, because it undercuts some of the most powerful arguments New York Times can make to try to galvanize international opposition to Pakistan's terrorist adventurism.

But the most immediate damage was done on the editor's next topic, India. Washington is trying to persuade the world to defy outdated objections and move more aggressively to bring India into the non-proliferation mainstream. This is no small issue because India is an emerging global power with a nuclear program that operated from its own soil.

Its just baffling why the editor traveled halfway across the page to consume one of his most important assets - and embarass himself. India and Pakistan have different histories. Pakistan put the "life" into proliferation, while India refused to do the same. When Pakistani generals decided to play nuclear mischief worldwide, AQ Khan felt obliged to follow suit.

So when the editor decided to carve out an exception to customary common sense for himself, it should have been obvious that his intelligent readers would refuse the same privilege, and that the editor would be embarassed by the readers explicit refusal to do it.

The editor was right to say no to Pakistan. It would be an unthinkably bad idea to grant a loophole to a country whose top nuclear scientist helped transfer nuclear technology to leading rogue states. But equating India to Pakistan in an ill-informed argument that lets readers accelerate their disappoinment makes no sense either.

The editor should have just spared the ink.

7 comments:

Jaffna said...

Pragmatic,

Thank you for this.

The New York Times has tended to view India with disdain. The earlier journalism of Barbara Crosette illustrated that prejudice. Fortunately, the perspectives and influence of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post balance this ideological bias on the east coast. The premises of the NYT editorial are wrong for several reasons.

Pakistan has no choice but to cooperate with the United States. It can not afford to alienate Washington, its biggest financial sponsor. To argue therefore, as the NYT does, that the concessions to India would push Pakistan away is misconceived. Pakistan is on a far weaker wicket sans American sponsorship. It can turn to China but Chinese aid alone can not sustain Islamabad's economy and fragile social base. It is a client state with no real options. India on the other hand had to be wooed by current administration in the United States.

The NPT is a dead letter. Bush had sought a creative way to bring India into the international nuclear safeguards regime. The NYT repeats hackneyed and cliched rhetoric on the need to save the NPT. It is dead already. Does the international community want India inside or outside the regime of global nuclear safeguards? That's the question.

To compare India with Iran and North Korea is not relevant either since neither of the latter states are established nuclear powers.

The NYT had traditionally emphasized the importance of Britain and Europe to US decision making. The nuclear deal tends to dent the traditional atlanticist link where a non-Anglo Saxon, a non-white and non-Jewish state gets entry into the big league, clearly undesired by the editorial high command.

Pakistan never posed a real threat to this Atlanticist vision. India does. Hence the need to downgrade India by equating it with Pakistan. Much like what Stephen Cohen does repeatedly.

Three minor corrections to the NYT. India exploded its first nuclear device in 1974, not in 1998. Two, India and Pakistan are not military rivals. China and India are rivals. Three, to oppose the nuclear deal as weakening the fight against Al Qaeda is bad logic. Its comparing apples and oranges.

Bad try NYT.

Shalom.

Pragmatic said...

Jaffna,

Good points all.

NY Times will certainly go down on the wrong side of history on India and its inevitable emergence. Even better, they'll live to see how wrong they were, since this great power shift will transpire in a matter of decades.

PN NJ said...

Why would you ever assume common sense at the NY Times?

cynical nerd said...

Pragmatic and Jaffna: Excellent points. By my count this is the 3rd edit from NYT against this deal - I'd paid tributes to the first one - no doubt we'll hear more whines from the Gray Lady till the vote comes to Congress.

best,

libertarian said...

Clever device. NYT just keeps slipping.

Nitin said...

Pragmatic,

This one was done perfectly. Splendid.

BangaloreGuy said...

"The editor should have just spared the ink."

Ha Ha Ha.
Touche.

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