Weekly Letter to President Obama
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
January 8, 2016

Mr. President:  The news this week is of a nuclear test by North Korea.  It was
criticized, vilified, and a closed UN Security Council meeting quickly organized.  The
North Koreans claim it was a hydrogen bomb; if true, it makes the little country a
member of a very select group capable of horrendous destruction.  Why is the little
country doing this?  It most certainly cannot use such a bomb for expansion for its use
would be self-destructive.  As it surveys the world, however, what does it see?

There is Afghanistan ... in ruins with an ongoing civil war; adjacent Pakistan left with
radical Islamist groups trying to sunder the country; Iraq torn apart in ethnic and
religious strife with ISIS making inroads, when pre-invasion (made under deception
and false WMD claims) the groups lived harmoniously; Libya, which gave up its
nuclear program and helped fight religious extremism, only to be rewarded with the
destruction of its infrastructure, a fractured country, civil war and economic chaos;
Syria with half its population displaced and ISIS holding large chunks of territory until
the Russians said 'enough'; and then there is Ukraine, a country left as an economic
shambles, in civil war with one and a half million refugees escaping to Russia, at a
cost to the US taxpayer of $5 billion plus to execute what in effect was a coup against
a democratically elected government -- unlike the present one as half the country did
not vote for it.

The list does not end here, but it is enough for a country labeled 'evil' to figure out
very quickly a survival strategy.  Target us and we can bring you chaos through your
close ally to our south, in the meantime holding our long range missiles and hydrogen
bomb as a threat against you, the US.  The North Koreans are only being logical.

Add to all this China's interest in maintaining North Korea as a buffer so that US
troops don't come up to its border -- as they would under a unification of the Koreas
-- and we probably have all the pieces of the puzzle in place.

That wars can take a very long time to end has been evident in Afghanistan.  
American participation may be off the front pages and low key but certainly not for the
parents who lost their son there this week -- the first soldier to die in 2016.  A
helicopter was damaged and others were wounded -- a sad beginning of the new year
for their families, and not the only people mourning in our troubled world.

Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister visited Afghanistan.  Despite the closeness
with the Afghan government, Indian consulates and even the embassy in Kabul have
been frequent targets of a attack.  Mr. Modi is still smarting from the thrashing his
party, the BJP, received in the Bihar state elections.  His party's electoral strategy
masterminded by Mr. Modi and his close confidante and BJP president, Amit Shah,
attempted again (although this time without success) to inflame the Hindu-Muslim
divide.  Against this backdrop and ever the nimble politician, it is easy to understand
why he would back off a hard-line policy and make a gesture of friendship towards
Pakistan.  This he did in a one-day visit during which he attended a wedding in his
Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif's ancestral village Raiwind.  The superficial thaw in
relations is the logical next step after a freeze has not helped politically.