Tiny Bhutan's Day in the Sun

By Varadarajan, Tunku | Newsweek, August 20, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Tiny Bhutan's Day in the Sun

Varadarajan, Tunku, Newsweek

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Bandar of Arabia

What should one make of the recent decision by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to name Prince Bandar bin Sultan the head of the kingdom's intelligence agencies? Saudi watchers held in esteem by this column are unanimous in their belief that the appointment is an inspired move, and preparation for the closing chapter in the struggle for Syria. The king fired his half brother (Prince Muqrin) in favor of Bandar, his nephew. This is rarely done in Saudi Arabia, where decorum and seniority trump other considerations. The king isn't necessarily fond of Bandar, who was, for 22 years, the Saudi ambassador in Washington; that he has brought him back to the top table at this moment tells us that this is a serious moment in Saudi diplomacy. The Saudis think it isn't enough anymore to write large checks for others: their willingness to bring in Bandar tells us that they want to contest the regional game. The Saudis have also lost faith in Barack Obama, and it would appear that they're preparing for a Republican victory in the U.S. presidential elections, what with Bandar's deep ties to the Bush family and other prominent Republican figures.

Thank You, Thimphu

Can there possibly be a feel-good element in the story of 600 million people going without power for about nine hours in one of the world's largest economies? Beguilingly, the answer is yes. As India staggered through a gargantuan blackout, itty-bitty Bhutan (population, 800,000; capital city, Thimphu) came gallantly to the rescue. The landlocked David, one hundredth the size of India, released emergency supplies of power to its sweating, beleaguered neighbor, easing Goliath India's problems and--one presumes--mortifying its government in the process. Hydroelectricity is Bhutan's cash cow: according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, its share of the country's GDP is 20 percent. India buys 5,480 billion kilowatt-hours each year, and is now locking in contracts for decades to come. Om Shanti!

John Keegan, R.I.P.

Lovers of history are in mourning over the death of John Keegan, easily the most eloquent military historian of the last 50 years.

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