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Beware of foreign policy experts!

In an opinion piece last week, Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council of Foreign Relations chastised his ‘clanspeople’ in the United States — foreign policy pundits and think tankers who sound like they know everything, while they know very little “especially about the intentions of bad guys and the consequences of war.” Gelb sharply questioned the rationale of the US going to war with Iran or intervening in Syria.

The hawks make a fascinating breed anywhere, especially in India. I won’t mention names but I’ve kept aside their furious opinion pieces demanding India should deploy its army in Afghanistan. I re-read them occasionally for fun and if ever I write a book on Afghanistan, I know where to look for quotations about Indian ‘strategic thinking’. 
Fortunately, our hawks have gone silent. Some grudgingly accept that Taliban have come to stay. Imagine, if the Indian army really got entrapped in the cross-fire between the Afghan people and the NATO forces! The retreat from the Hindu Kush Mountains would make the IPKF saga in Sri Lanka seem a weekend picnic.
Of course, we had hawks who predicted China would attack India in 2012. Maybe there are stlll 9 months left, but are there any takers left? Then, indeed, there were hawks who wanted India to “give it back” to China by “playing the Tibet card”.
Gelb also touches on Tibet but in a contrarian way. He probes why American hawks give wide berth to Tibet. “Why don’t they advocate arming the Tibetans? Well, we know why they don’t want war with China. For the time being, all they desire is to beef up U.S. military spending and presence in Asia. Then, we’ll see.” Got the point?
The hawks on Delhi’s TV chat shows wanted India to assert its presence in the South China Sea and depute ONGC to relentlessly explore oil reserves in those disputed waters, no matter Beijing’s warnings of unpleasant consequences. They sought a strategic axis between India and Vietnam so that Beijing finally got the message where to get off. And, now, we hear the Chinese on their part may be mulling over a Sri Lankan invitation to undertake oil exploration in Palk Strait – from where through binoculars the dragon can probably watch the activities in at least three or four Indian naval bases and the creme de creme of the super-sensitive Indian defence industry that have been tucked away in the deep south far away from Arunachal Pradesh or Karakorum Pass.
Hey, where are those hawks and TV anchormen? Again, remember the Indian hawks demanding that Maoists in Nepal should be vanquished from the face of the earth, or else they would team up with our Naxalites? Fortunately, they flew away and Maoists in Nepal settled down — and Mao Zedong’s grandson now alleges Naxalites are bringing his grandpa’s revolutionary heritage into disrepute.
The most shameful hawkish offensive in recent times was of course targetted at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Sharm el-Sheikh initiative. The hawks launched a relentless tirade, but in retrospect, the initiative paid off. Of course, hawks never admit mistakes, they just look away.   
The ‘hot spot’ for the Indian hawk today is Maldives. islamists are taking control of the 1200 islands in the Indian Ocean and Pakistan’s ISI is will launch fedayeen attacks from Maldives on India in the 21st century. So, why is Ministry of External Affairs goofing up? 
Oh, I forgot the Italian Marines who killed 2 Indian fishermen. The hawks want Indian laws to prevail, no matter where and how the killing took place. Such hubris is frightening. We gain nothing by humiliating the Italians when they keep stressing they don’t want to sour friendly ties with India. We could have accommodated their request for a joint probe. However, the hawk prevailed, and this time, the politician teamed up with the hawk. 
What is the solution to the problem of the hawk? Gelb is right: self-styled foreign policy experts and think tankers should be grilled when they espouse idiocies — such as when they espoused India should join a quadrilateral alliance with Japan, Australia and the US. Gelb says the onus is on the media and legislators. He writes: 
“They got to be much tougher with the experts, pin them down on what they know and don’t know and what facts their views are based on. They’ve got to demand real answers, and not let the experts escape with slogans like ‘lead’ and ‘take action’ or ‘that will all work out’. But it is the rarest of occasions when legislators or journalists bear down on the experts.” True. Read Gelb here.

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