THE WORLD AFTER NINE ELEVEN
Maj.Gen (Retd) K S Pendse
Those tragic events of 11th of September in which thousands of individuals were killed in the US have left indelible scars on the minds of all right-thinking human beings. Much has been written about how it was a life-altering experience at the personal level. But one wonders whether the ruling elites of the world have altered their modes of thinking and operation. A hundred days later,after toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and setting in motion a process of rebuilding that war-torn country, the US is looking for fresh targets in its war on global terrorism. It is, therefore, an opportune moment to take a good look at the world after Nine Eleven.
WHY DO THEY HATE US ?
Immediately after the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the American TV networks hosted a number of panel discussions to probe the reasons behind these attacks. There was a plaintive query running through most of these discussions. The Americans wanted to know why they were hated so virulently, in spite of all the help they had given to the rest of the world. In effect, it was an attempt to re-assure themselves that ‘jealousy, that green-eyed monster’ was the prime cause for these first-ever attacks against them on their own soil since 1812. There was little introspection about the ramifications and after-effects of America’s ruthless maintenance of a balance of terror in world affairs to the benefit of its economy since the demise of the British empire in the post-Second World War era. No one wondered why the Ugly American image persists decades after the US defeat in its war against Vietnam.
‘IF YOU ARE NOT WITH US, YOU ARE AGAINST US’.
The US President’s clear-cut warning to the rest of the world smacked of a Wild West scenario, reinforced further by his declaration that Osama bin Laden was ‘WANTED,DEAD OR ALIVE’.This latter policy decision may have been influenced by what the BBC revealed about the Bush empire’s commercial deals with the Laden group in Saudi Arabia.The truth, like the New York Time’s suppressed report about the present US President’s election results, may never be known. What has followed since October 7th is a massive demonstration of US military might and its effect on a rag-tag militia in a war-ravaged Third World country. Others take note!
PAKISTAN: A FRONTLINE STATE
What is remarkable about US policy-making is the total attention devoted to securing its immediate and short term interest. Expediency is the name of the game . Accordingly, Pakistan, the very creator of Taliban and the promoter of Jehad, was included in the Alliance, because it was willing to dump its creation, provide intelligence, permit use of air-space and ground installations, and provide logistic support to the US military. That Pakistan continued to re-supply the Taliban militia which was led by its own officers and had Pakistan’s regulars in its ranks, and that it evacuated many of them by air before the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif was reported by CNN. But officially, the US is not aware of Pakistan’s duplicity. It has never dubbed the latter a terrorist state despite knowing how many thousands of Indian citizens have died as a result of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India for the last two decades. Principles have little place in the international power politics aimed at preserving US primacy in the global order. And, after all, Afghanistan and Pakistan do lie athwart a desirable route for bringing Central Asian oil and natural gas to the shores of the Arabian Sea.
IS INDIA A NATURAL ALLY OF THE U.S.?
A unilateral assertion by India of being a natural ally of the US needs to be tested now, after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament House on 13th of December. No doubt, the US has prompted India to take appropriate action in the matter. But at the same time. its Secretary of State has advised India to proceed with caution in view of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability. That raises the question of how far is the US prepared to include India’s two-decade long experience of cross-border terrorism as a part of the US war on global terrorism. Are countries like Pakistan that harbour terrorists and promote terrorism to be punished as per the declared US policy, or are they to be rewarded for services rendered to the US in the past, and likely to be rendered in the future? Going by the US track record of playing on the sense of insecurity of other nations in order to promote its own national interest, it may accept India’s problem as its own only if the Islamic nations gang up against the US in the post-Afghanistan phase of its war on terrorism. It is already being perceived as a crusade against Islam by various leaders, from Mahathir of Malaysia to Mubarak of Egypt. That complicate matters not only for the US but also for India whose large Muslin vote-banks can influence the fate of its political parties in all elections.The Indian ruling elite cannot ignore the fact that its one billion strong population is divided on religious,ethnic and linguistic fault-lines. That makes India a soft state. It cannot take its place alongside the US as its natural ally in the current war on terrorism, without preparing for a civil war within India. For all their political posturing, India’s rulers have seldom taken any hard decisions to date, the only notable exception having been the liberation of East Pakistan from Islamabad’s terror in 1971.
U S : AN EMPIRE IN PERIL ?
While all nations sympathised with the US after the 11th of September, and some like the UK participated in the war against Taliban, no nation has agreed so far for its extension to other nations. Is the US likely to pursue this war on its own, howsoever covertly it may conduct it ? The cost of doing so in a spirit of leading a posse to bring all terrorists over the world to book may not only prove prohibitive but also vindicate Paul Kennedy’s unpopular forecast in his work, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers,1987, about the US risking its own downfall through an ‘ imperial overstretch’ while playing the global policeman.
Of course, an overt US military action as in Afghanistan may not be repeated while eliminating terrorist networks elsewhere. But the fact that an oil-rich Saudi Arabia allegedly funded terrorists while a Talibanised Afghanistan harboured them and Pakistan not only trained them but also fought alongside them, shows how religion binds the unholy too! By taking on these essentially Middle East based terrorist outfits, is the U S willy-nilly fulfilling Samuel Huntington’s prophecy of a clash of civilisations ? Will it trigger a third world war , or will the US rely on covert operations and squeezing of financial and other assets to make the US safe from further terrorist attacks rather than eliminate it totally ? A great deal depends on whether the Americans are subjected to further attacks on their own soil and receive a further drubbing to their self-respect and sense of inviolability .If the US reacts to seek vengeance , the cycle of violence can never cease. The current Israel- PLO impasse is a case in point.The US advice to Israel and to India to take appropriate action may have further reinforced this cycle of violence. Can the US go it alone and retain its primacy in the world order despite alienating the Islamic nations and losing the support of its European allies ? Or will it become a power on the wane?
But the Americans have been aware of this danger since before the Gulf War of 1991. In fact, they managed that war so well as to collect billions of dollars from a non-participant Japan,and, in addition, sell arms worth 20 billion dollars to Saudi Arabia so as to end up with a profit! Therefore, the U S is likely to limit its war to secure the lives and property of its citizens in its military sense, while employing other means including covert ones to roll up other terrorist networks. India will have to continue to fight its own battle against terrorism more or less on its own.
As already pointed out, with a sizeable Muslim population whose electoral support is sought by every political party in a democratic India, it has remained a soft state since its independence. Corruption has made a mockery of its law and order apparatus and consequently of the judicial system. Secretaries to the Government of India had declared more than a decade ago that India had become ungovernable. The armed forces of India, once considered the last island of sanity, have become a prey to those bent upon milking defence contracts for wrongful gain. Governance is non-existent in large parts of the country. Anarchy and chaos that Western thinkers have forecast as the future plight of the world, are already rampant here. It is a land where anything can happen anywhere at any time – be it the bomb blasts in Mumbai, the arms drop in Purulia,the hijacking of an aircraft to Kandahar via Amritsar,large scale Pak army intrusion in Kargil, car-bomb explosion at the entrance to the J& K assembly, or an armed attack on India’s Parliament House in New Delhi. India’s tale of woe is endless. Its coalition governments are engineered if not to self-destruct, then to atrophy due to inaction, while its opposition’s only plank is not to let the government function.
Under these circumstances,India has remained on the defensive in the face of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism as compared to the current U S and Israeli proactive measures in the face of a similar threat. Indians are good at rhetoric and at issuing threats without a second’s thought, as can be seen from the reaction to the recent attack on the Indian Parliament. Invoking the U N resolution in this regard is ‘passing the buck’ to the U N as an admission of India’s inability to handle what is its own problem of living perennially under a terrorist threat. India has to co-exist with a nuclear-armed Pakistan that is waging a proxy war against India in order to wrest Kashmir away from it.Infinite patience towards Pakistan and corrective action limited to the guilty on its own soil has been India’s preferred option thus far. Does India have the stomach for a final show-down with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue that may escalate to a nuclear exchange is the question. With the U S remaining ambiguous over declaring Pakistan a rogue state, India may find a military resolution of the problem less attractive as the days go by. What is required is an astute statesmanship which compels the U S to persuade Pakistan to give up its pursuit of a single point agenda viz. Kashmir, and join India and other SAARC countries in a programme of economic progress for the whole region.Recent U S action in Afghanistan should have convinced Islamic fundamentalists in the region that crime against humanity does not pay. The President of Pakistan must have learnt this lesson already, and should be capable of educating his people to project Islam, not as a religion of the terrorists,but as a tolerant religion. After all, India has the second largest Muslim population in the world ,living more or less in harmony with people of other faiths.And the price of adhering to Jehad will be rather high for any ruler in Pakistan! Should the U S distance itself from India’s fight against terrorism,and fail to nudge Pakistan towards denouncing those terrorist organisations already named by Washington ,India will have to convince the international community about Pakistan’s perfidy with all the proof it has about its active role in the recent terrorist attacks against India. Simultaneously, India will have to educate its own people about the risks involved in taking military action against Pakistan,as that could result in a nuclear strike against major cities in India .An escalation ladder of measured response to a graduated shift from diplomatic through economic to military action in an open manner as would give enough time for the people of India as well as Pakistan to understand the gravity of the confrontation between the two neighbours will bring some sanity on both sides of the border. It will also force the U S to show its hand in this ‘great game’ being played by it in South Asia. And it may ultimately lead to a resolution of the Kashmir issue to the satisfaction of all parties involved in it. Statesmanship, and not election-oriented rhetoric, is India’s need of the hour.
WHAT NEXT ?
If the U S and its First World allies are serious about eliminating terrorism from the world, they need to understand the havoc created thus far by their politico-economic exploitation of the weak and the less developed parts of the world for enjoying a life style that the earth can no longer sustain without depriving the unborn of their right to live.To do so ,they need to overcome a white race superiority syndrome so evident in the dumping of the Kyoto Treaty,the ABM Treaty,the Biological Weapons Convention,and an eastward expansion of the NATO.This last step seems to be an attempt to create a ‘Fortress Europa’ as would guard against any attempts by the deprived majority of the world to scale its walls in order to share the riches of the First World who command 85% of the world income.Such shortsighted policy can only reap a whirlwind in the days ahead.
However, no such long term perspective for the survival of mankind is likely to influence decisionmaking in the capitals of the affluent and militarily powerful nations of the world right now.Their self-centred policies, rationalised in the name of guarding their national interest,have gathered a momentum of their own.Many MNCs with some presidents and prime ministers as their front-men,boast of having their private armies with a global reach.Their covert actions to topple unwanted regimes have been more terrifying than those of known terrorist outfits.In this opaque world of dirty tricks,the so called war on global terrorism will continue after the Afghanistan War is over, but without any visuals on the TV screen.While espousing the cause of democracy and of human rights, the mighty nations of the world would be tempted to eliminate all global opposition to their policies.A greater threat to freedom and democracy is likely to rise not from religious fundamentalism but from stateless MNCs bent upon promoting an economic and cultural terrorism for an ever increasing share of the world’s riches.An anarchy whose birth was seen on every TV screen on the 11th of September,is likely to dominate our world hereafter, in the name of a war on global terrorism!