VAPPALA BALACHANDRAN | 22 DECEMBER, 2016
MUMBAI: It is good that India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had paid a hurried visit to Washington DC to meet the US NSA designate Lt. General Michael Flynn. Perhaps he might have met others too, tipped to be the leaders of the Trump Security team.
Pakistan has an obvious advantage here since both Michael Flynn and Defense Secretary designate Gen. James “Mad Dog” (“Warrior Monk”) Mattis are well known to the Pakistan army leadership. Michael Flynn had served in Afghanistan under Gen. McChrystal and had maintained a close relationship with Pakistan intelligence during 2009- 2010.
James Mattis had worked very closely with Pakistan Generals as the Commander of the US Central Command from 2010 to 2013. Earlier as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade(Task Force 58) Mattis had brokered a secret agreement with Pakistan to provide landing beaches and access to an airstrip during the planning stages of the November 2001 Afghanistan War. Task Force 58 consisted of two U.S. Navy amphibious readiness groups. He was instrumental in the capture of Kandahār, the spiritual home of the Taliban. As commanding officer of the Marines he had advised his men to grow beards if need be, to have better cultural understanding with the local people.
Michael Flynn, a combat intelligence veteran was Director of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from July 2012 to August 2014. He abruptly chose to retire in April 2014 although he had one more year to go. Reports then had said that he was forced to submit his resignation due to his questionable management style. However it was also revealed that he had clashed with the then US national intelligence estimate that al-Qaeda was on the wane. Seymour Hersh had said at that time that Flynn was fired because of his view that the anti-Assad rebel forces, which were being backed US and Western allies, were rabid Islamists and "that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria." Flynn felt that Western nations should partner with moderate leaders like Egyptian president al-Sisi to resist global jihad problem.
However Michael Flynn’s post retirement career and advocacy could be problematic for a multi religious country like India. In July this year he published a book “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies". This was co-written with Michael Ledeen, a controversial former NSC consultant and a “Neo-Con” foreign policy analyst. While liberal newspapers like the Washington Post dubbed the book as a call to wage another world war, some US military veterans hailed it as a frank admission of “a global problem and its growing each day as some international leaders try to deny its existence”.
Washington Post which reviewed this book saw it as “an apocalyptic vision of Islam and terrorism”. His remedy was a call “to fight another world war” or more specifically “a multi-generational and civilizational conflict against radical Islam” as Flynn himself described in his book. “We’ve got to stop feeling the slightest bit guilty about calling them by name and identifying them as fanatical killers acting on behalf of a failed civilization.”
The Post quotes him: “We’re in a world war, but very few Americans recognize it, and fewer still have any idea how to win it.” It adds: “Flynn seems quite comfortable with the prospect of a religious war”. Here Flynn cites the Protestant Reformation: “This kind of war is not at all new. It created our world…The world badly needs an Islamic Reformation, and we should not be surprised if violence is involved. It’s normal.”
At the same time Flynn is not enamoured with Russia as his boss is. He criticizes the “autocratic” Putin and accuses Iran and Russia as leaders of “an enemy alliance of nations, in league with anti-American forces, crime networks and terrorist groups”. In fact he criticizes President Obama for having “tiptoed around open criticism of Vladimir Putin’s many aggressive actions” and adds that “the Russians haven’t been very effective at fighting jihadis on their own territory, and are in cahoots with the Iranians.”
On December 6 Washington Post attacked Flynn’s nomination through 2 prominent op-ed pieces “Trump must dump Michael Flynn” by Richard Cohen and “Donald Trump’s most terrifying appointment” by Paul Waldman. Cohen, a reputed columnist called him “a mad general with paranoid conspiracy theories”.
The columnist was more worried since Trump has no experience on foreign policy and there will be no check on NSA’s nomination since the job needs no Senate confirmation. Waldman said that “there are few more important positions in the White House, and few where the wrong choice could have consequences quite as catastrophic” in view of Trump’s inexperience. He was also incensed with Flynn for making scurrilous allegations against Hillary Clinton through his 1, 06,000 Twitter followers that “ Clinton is involved with child sex trafficking and has ‘secretly waged war’ on the Catholic Church, as well as charges that Obama is a ‘jihadi’ who ‘laundered’ money for Muslim terrorists”
In this background it would be a tough job for New Delhi to forge “closer Indo-US relations” according to our preferences, through Flynn. What do we want from him? Would he help us by taming the anti-India Jehadi groups holed up in Pakistan by warning Pakistan that “it would be bombed back to stone age” as famously conveyed to Musharraf by Richard Armitage, then US Deputy Secretary of State immediately after 9/11? Or would his Pakistan policy be only confined to demand their compliance only in regard to those anti- US forces sheltered by Pakistan? In return would he insist that India should join his coalition to wage an oracular and civilizational conflict against radical Islam?
[The writer is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat]