ONE YEAR OF AMERICAN WAR ON TERRORISM: STOCK TAKING

By

Dr. Anil A. Athale.

 

The attacks on 9/11 on Twin Towers and Pentagon are comparable with the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour on 7 Dec 1941 in terms of impact on the American psyche.[1] In some ways these were even worse as these attacks caused large  non combatant fatalities and hence prompted greater popular outrage than even the Pearl Harbour attack.

 

Despite the shock of sinking of US Pacific fleet, the Pear Harbour attack did not prompt any real security fears. The attack was too remote geographically and the enemy, Japan, thought to be well within American grasp. The security scare that the US experienced on 9/11 has only one other parallel, the British raid on Washington DC on 24 August 1814 , when under Major General Robert Ross the British entered Washington and burnt down the Capitol and White House.[2] Although, when the Soviet Union launched its first satellite on 4 October 1957, fears of a surprise missile attack by Soviet Union in near future, did give rise to serious apprehension.[3]

 

On 9/11 the defences of ‘Fortress America’ were breached. In both the world wars of last century, America sent her troops to Europe and other parts of the world in defence of her ‘interests’ but a direct threat to the American homeland never materialised.  In this sense it was a unique experience for the Americans, as war had reached their home soil.

 

In launching these attacks Islamic radicals, like the Germans and Japanese before them, have under-estimated the ruthlessness and resolve of the Americans. The huge graveyards testifying to the massive carnage of American Civil War ought to have been a reminder of American reaction to threats. Both the Japanese and Germans paid a terrible price for their folly. So will the Islamist militants, sooner than later.

 

 

There was a gap of 11 minutes between the first and second airliner dashing into the Twin Towers of New York. The New York ATC ( Air Traffic Control ) had tracked the second aircraft but mighty America was powerless and sluggish to respond to the situation. This was the price the US was paying for down grading its defences post cold war under President Clinton. The warnings of many, including this author, about the dangers to the US and world,  posed by Islamic Terrorists with international reach, never entered the consciousness of numerous American think tanks, busy  playing the old familiar Cold War games or busy re-inventing remote threats.  On 12 April  1961, when the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was going wrong, another American President JF Kennedy, found that the US did not have enough troops to help out the anti Castro rebels![4] The Generals had prepared to fight Atomic War and not ground operations. 40 year later, another new American President repeated the experience.

 

Initial gut reaction of President Bush ( Jr.), and albeit a correct one, to lash out at the perpetrators and their supporters was soon drowned in the bureaucratic caution, first to make sure that there is no faux pas like in case of Oklahoma  city bombing on 19 April 1995. Where the initial suspicion pointed to Arab involvement, it turned out that White Supremacist terror groups were involved. But once it was clear that it was the Islamic radicals then the action against them ought to have been swift …… But  the delay in launching initial attacks and  the deliberate attempt not to target front lines of Taliban ( so as not to help the Northern Alliance advance to Kabul ALONE)  cost very dear to the Americans. Consistent with the time needed to move forces, the initial air attacks on Afghanistan could have been launched at the earliest, within days of the 11 September outrage! There is no evidence to show that the Talibans were deployed in their defences at that time. If launched within 48 hours, instead of empty barracks that were destroyed, the Americans could have caught most of the Taliban troops and dealt a crushing blow to their capacity to fight back. The Americans instead gave further time to Taliban to disperse its troops and prepare for a long struggle using the tactics of Guerrilla   war. 

 

The need to not make it look like an attack on Islam, forced restriction on selection of targets such as Mosques, which  become virtual sanctuaries. But even more importantly, due to the need to keep Muslim opinion from getting inflamed, the results of the bombing and devastation brought about was kept ‘hidden’ from the general public. The US did the extraordinary thing and bought up all the commercial satellite images. THUS THE US LOST THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECT OF ‘DETERRENCE’ . Any military man with reasonable analysis can tell you that bombing in mountains has very limited military utility. It is not the physical but the psychological effect of aerial bombing that is VITAL  for war. Political considerations  thus cramped the military effort.

 

Von Clauswitz, had warned of the dangers of politics intruding into the domain of military strategy .

“ Woe to the government which relying on half hearted politics and a shackled military policy, meets a foe, who, like the untamed elements of nature, knows no law other than his own power “[5]

 

Crucial Questions!

 

In the entire debate about war on terrorism a very crucial issues have been ignored. WHAT WAS THE IMMEDIATE PROVOCATION FOR THE ATTACKS ON AMERICA ON 11 SEPTEMBER 2001?

 

Was it something that had happened or was it something that was likely to happen soon! There has been no clear answer to this very vital question of the ‘TIMING’ of attack. From all the openly available sources  it  seems  that the answer to this is negative. The attack was carried out without any specific provocation or demand, and in that sense was very different from any other that the world has seen so far. Be they the Palestinian attack on Munich Olympics in 1972 or the various hijackings of the 1970s or even the Red Army faction’s massacre of Israelis. Each of these acts was clearly connected to either a specific demand or was in retaliation of some earlier incident. Obviously the rationale behind the attack had nothing to do with any specific American policy, be it in Palestine or elsewhere. The attack was mounted as part of the basic agenda of radical Islam to establish World domination. 

 

This then explains the second riddle, the extraordinary success of Al Quaida in escaping the American dragnet. It is not just the question of a few individuals, but literally hundreds of people, families, children, consisting the high command of Taliban and Al Quaida , have simply vanished in thin air! This could only be possible due to the passive empathy that the entire Islamic world feels towards the terrorist’s goal.

 

The kid glove treatment of the ideological aspect of the war on terrorism is akin to declaring that the Second World War was a war fought against Adolf Hitler alone, with no mention of Nazi ideology! It was not for nothing that the Allies insisted on ‘unconditional surrender’ and did not let ‘pragmatic’ considerations dilute the war aims. [6]

 

Turmoil in Afghanistan .

 

The Al Quaida organisation and it’s leader Osama Bin Laden are American creations. The 1979 Soviet intrusion in Afghanistan was seen as a major strategic threat by the US since it coincided with the Khomeini led Islamic revolution in Iran. The direct Soviet intervention could also be seen as a reaction to likely US move in Iran. The welfare of Afghans was not a factor in these calculations by either the US or the Soviet Union.

 

In hindsight, it can be seen that the Khalaq and Parcham political parties of Afghanistan were essentially nationalist groupings with socialist leanings, so was Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam and most other leaders of the so called third world. In a proxy war lasting nearly ten years the US allied with the most rabid fundamentalist Islamic groups, destroyed the modernising elite of Afghanistan leaving the field wide open for the ‘Taliban’ to take over.

 

The Soviet withdrawal  from Afghanistan was followed by a civil war between the various war lords representing various tribes in Afghanistan. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, the sole US interest centred around stability in Afghanistan. This was essential as the US companies, Unicol in particular, favoured the Afghan-Pakistan route for the transporting the oil and gas resources of Turkmenistan. To achieve this objective and pacify Afghanistan, the US encouraged Pakistan to induct the Taliban or the indoctrinated youth of the Madarssa’s into that country with full support of the Pakistani army. Pakistan saw in this an opportunity to occupy Afghanistan and use it as ‘strategic depth’ to face threat from India in the East.

 

But a major miscalculation took place here. While the West and US saw the victory in Afghan war as its own, the Islamic fundamentalists like Bin Laden began to feel that it was their zeal and ability that brought about a fall of a Super Power. Many like Osama Bin Laden began to dream of capturing power in Saudi Arabia. When thwarted in that attempt he turned on the Americans.

 

The Talibans themselves, a breed of semi literate, fanatical Muslims, saw their mission in religious terms and went about turning Afghanistan into a ‘Pure’ Muslim land in the mould  of Kingdom of Prophet Mohammed dating back to the sixth century era. When their brutal regime began to invite world attention and sanctions, initially the Taliabn appeared perplexed. However as the Afghans in their thousands began to flee, creating a refugee problem for the world and the sanctions began to bite, the Taliban regime turned hostile to their American patrons and gave free rein to Osama and his Al Quaida organisation.

 

The fourth claimants to the Afghan victory were the Pakistanis. In their eyes the Afghan experience proved that even a super power could be defeated by ‘Mujahideen’ backed by them. This gave rise to the Pakistani adventure against India, first in Punjab and later in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

The Real Reason for the Attacks of 9/11.

 

Post the 9/11 attacks, many explanations have been offered. Many in the Arab and Islamic countries blamed the attacks on disaffection in Muslim world due to the American policies in Palestine and US support to repressive regimes in Muslim world. This is a bogus post facto rationalisation. The Al Quaida and Osama bin Laden gang were American allies in 1980s.[7] It is precisely the period when Israel, with American backing, launched  an invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and ousted PLO from there.[8] It was the erstwhile Soviet Union that was backing the PLO and Palestinians all this while. The champion of Arab cause in 2001, Osama Bin Laden, at that time was closely allied with the Americans!

 

The Muslim anger against the Americans and the cause of terrorist attacks has been attributed to the US support to repressive regimes in Egypt et al. As far as repression goes, the Taliban in Afghanistan hold a virtual world record! Yet the very critics who rail against the US and the West, were also whole hearted supporters of Taliban!

 

Another justification offered for rise of terrorism in many Muslim countries has been blamed on poverty and underdevelopment . Even a cursory look at the background of Terrorists, from Mohammed Atta to the London School of Economics educated Shiekh Omar[9], shows clearly that the terrorists belonged to the well healed and can hardly be classed as poor or impoverished. Osama Bin Laden himself is a millionaire.

 

The answer to this crucial question as to why the attacks on American took place is complex one and a result of combination of factors and forces. Quite clearly the vaulting ambition of Osama Bin Laden to be the Khomeini of Saudi Arabia was one major factor. The support of Taliban to his cause was due to their anger against America as well as due to the mundane fact of Osama’s money power! But many committed recruits ranging from Atta to Omar  Sheikh, were clearly taken in by Osama’s religious rhetoric and the cause of Jihad that would ultimately Islamise the whole world. The notion is both romantic and stupid but appeals to the educated, well heeled youth who find themselves to be misfits in the liberal western societies. Their disturbed psyche then found a solace in radical Islam that turned their own inadequacies into a virtue. Pakistan played a passive role in this, though an important one. Despite being aware of the Taliban depredations within Afghanistan and their link with Al Quaida ( specially after the Nairobi embassy bombings) the Pakistanis were loath to give up their proxy colony in the West, ie Afghanistan. It did massage the Punjabi Pakistani ego that for once in their history, it is they who were ruling the Afghans and not the other way round as has been the case throughout the recorded history of the region.

 

While it is true that geo-political considerations played a major role in Pakistani support to Taliban and their turning blind eye to activities of Al Quaida, if must be noted that Karachi was and continues to be the gateway for the terrorists based in Afghanistan. Without some tacit Pakistani support, Al Quaida based in landlocked Afghanistan was incapable of carrying out the operations on 9/11. It seems clear that many in Pakistani establishment , including its nuclear scientists,[10] were taken in  by the Islamists rhetoric of Al Quaida and turned its willing supporters. Sultan Basheer Mehmood , a top Pakistani nuclear scientist, was in contact with Osama Bin Laden , giving rise to fears that the terrorists may be trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

Way Ahead !

       American Secretary of Defence, Mr. Rumsfield , accurately described the terrorist outfits as ‘Corporate Entity’ with the Al Quaida acting as the holding company and many other branches working independently in various countries . There is a high degree of inter changeability of personnel , sharing of information and resources and co-operation. Yet in interest of security and survival, the various cells are virtually independent and seem to have had operational freedom. It may come out in due course that Osama Bin Laden possibly may not have known much about the specific plans for the attack of 11 Sep. 2001! The degree of cooperation can be gauged from the fact that both in Chchenya and Kashmir, there have been a fair sprinkling of terrorists from all over the world including the American Taliban , John Lyndh!

 

      Some in the US seem to be making a distinction between ‘national terrorism’ and ‘international terrorism’ the later variety being directed against the US and the  West ! This ignores the reality that the underlying ideology of groups ranging from Al Quiada to Abu Sayaf in Philippines, is radical Islam. While insurgents do use terror tactics, for the Radical Islamists, it is the main strategy and not an adjunct. Many apologists have criticised the linking of radical Islam with terrorist acts by pointing out that world is using double standards! Question raised is; why is the IRA ( Irish Republican Army) or Oklahoma   bomber not called a ‘Christian Terrorist’? It needs to be pointed out here that the reason this is so is that no Priest has mounted a pulpit and defended the Oklahoma bomber, there are also no street mobs carrying his picture! And finally neither the IRA nor the Oklahoma bomber has ever justified the violence citing religious sanction!

 

     LEGITIMACY OF MEANS AND ENDS.

 

              In a situation when a group is using violence innocents it is ipso facto also challenging the monopoly of the states to use force and the international order.  When both the parties to the conflict are using force, the issue of legitimacy is not simply a moral or an ideological factor but has direct effect on the effectiveness of the force so used.

              For the force to be considered legitimate , there are several dimensions. The first is the ideological one. A state founded on universal principles and having system that grants every citizen the fundamental rights without discrimination ,automatically enjoys a legitimacy that is not available to racist , theocratic or  exclusivist ideology based groups. The core values of the state-system or the international order  have to be such as to appeal to not only the majority but also to smallest minority group. Universal Humanism has to be the basis of these core values. The legitimacy must be based on the 'reality' of how the  behaviour and administration of justice. If the aim of using force is  TO AFFECT BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE then primacy must be to psychological and not physical effect .The counter terrorist must be mindful of psychological ‘point of no return’ in dealing with a group. Periods of violence must alternate with periods of peace. Aimed at fence sitters and sympathisers and not hard core, as there is no alternative to physical elimination of that type. There is  no place for body count or weapon count tactics.

 

CONCLUSION

     

       International terrorism must be understood as a natural part of the process of globalisation. Globalisation is not just an economic phenomenon but encompasses flow of information, people, values and aspirations. Spread of violence is both a part and consequence of globalisation.

 

     The ultimate solution to the problem of international terrorism will be found in ‘World Federation’. Unfortunately, the world’s only super power, the USA, is in effect implementing this very concept but yet seems frightened to say it openly…else what is WTO, IMF, International Court .. for!

 

    



[1] Calvocoressi Peter & Wint Guy, ‘Total War’, Penguin Books,1972.   pp 706-707

‘ Japan committed the error of all militarist enemies of the United States, it underrated the American resolve to bear the hardships of war and the tenacity of Anglo-Saxon democracies, indeed it despised the Americans.’ ‘ The battlefields and huge graveyards dating back to the American civil war is grim warning that has been ignored by the militant enemies of the US.’

To some extent the description of Japanese attitude fits in with the Radical Islamist mindset. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was followed by an American reaction that lumped all Japanese as mishappen, ugly, stupid and dwarf people. The American domestic reaction to Muslims in general and Arabs in particular since 9/11 has followed a similar pattern.  As then so now, thousands of suspects have been rounded up and interned.

[2] Parkinson Roger, “Encyclopaedia of Modern War’, Granada Pub. In Paladin Books, London 1979. p 25.

[3] Quester George H. ‘Nuclear Diplomacy: The First Twenty-Five Years’, Dunellen Publishing Company, New York, 1970.

p. 150.  The public disquiet became even more pronounced in the wake of American failure and Russian successes in space.

[4] On 12 April 1961 about 1200 Cubans trained by the CIA landed at Bay of Pigs to overthrow Castro regime. Most were captured and killed. JF Kennedy, who had recently assumed the Presidency was unable to help the hapless rebels as the US did not have ready resources to undertake the task.

[5] Clauswitz Carl Von “On War’ ( Ed. And trans. By Michael Howard and Peter Paret) , Princeton University Press, New Jersy, 1976. P 667.

[6] NYT, Sep 1, 2002. Prof. Z.Brzezinsky in Op/Ed column advises the US to look at its foreign policy as the root cause of terrorism and advises ‘pragmatic’ approach to war against terrorism. Brzezinsky was a National Security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, ( possibly one of the brightest to reach that office) during the abortive coup/rescue attempt in Iran in 1979 ( Operation Eagle). The operation was a dismal failure and cost Carter his political career. It was similar ‘pragmatic’ advice to call off that operation after suffering a few causalities that sealed the fate of US hostages in Tehran.

 

There are issues and decisions when there is no turning back, war on terrorism is that sort of event, to think otherwise, as Brzezinsky does is a recipe for disaster. Brzezinsky while advocating soft line on Muslim states warns Americans against the efforts of Russians and Indians to take advantage of this to secure there interests in Chechenya and Kashmir. Brzezinsky thinks that the Islamic terrorism is divisible and ok as long as it is carried out against others.

 

[7] Bin Laden first came to international attention in the 1980s for his role in the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation forces. During his youth bin Laden had embraced fundamentalist Islamic teachings, and he regarded the Soviet invasion as an unforgivable assault on Muslim land. To aid the resistance, bin Laden provided funds and supplies, built guerrilla training camps, trenches, and roads, and recruited and transported large numbers of military volunteers from Arab nations. The United States also aided the Afghan rebels who fought the Soviet invaders. In 1988 near the end of the war, bin Laden established al-Qaeda (Arabic for “the Base”), an organization that, according to U.S. officials, connects and coordinates fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups around the world.

Bin Laden was angered by the presence of the U.S. military, which he considers an enemy of Islam, near Mecca and Medina, Saudi cities that are two of Islam’s holiest sites. He led criticism of the Saudi monarchy and in 1992 left Saudi Arabia for Sudan, where a fundamentalist Islamic regime had taken power. Two years later, the Saudi government revoked his citizenship and froze his assets in Saudi Arabia.

Many veterans of the Afghan war, who had become known as Arab Afghans, joined bin Laden in Sudan. There he formed several businesses, including a road-construction company, and reportedly set up training camps and strengthened the international structure of al-Qaeda with help from the Arab Afghans. In 1996, under pressure from the U.S. and Saudi governments, Sudan expelled bin Laden, and he went into hiding in Afghanistan.

[8] The Lebanese Civil war went on for nearly six years from 1979 to 1985. During this war on 6 June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and entered Beirut. In September that year the Pahlangist militia carried out a massacre of Palestinian men, women and children in Chattla and Sabra camps.

[9] Omar Sheikh, 27, was born in London, attended the London School of Economics and was a close associate of Maulana Azhar Masood - founder of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) group, which India blames for an attack on its parliament in December 2001. His father, Saeed Ahmed, was a Pakistani clothes merchant from Wanstead in east London. After passing four A-levels with good grades, Omar Sheikh enrolled at LSE in October 1992. But he left before the end of his first year of an undergraduate degree in statistics. Reports suggest he visited Bosnia as an aid worker and soon after, he moved to Pakistan. He was arrested by Indian police in 1994, accused of kidnapping three Britons and an American in India. In 1999, while serving a prison sentence for terrorist offences, an Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan. And in exchange for the 155 hostages on the plane, Omar Sheikh was freed from jail. He married in December 2000 and became a father in November 2001. He has been convicted of abducting and killing a Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

 

[10]Dawn’ Karachi , Pakistan , Jan 30 , 2002

The Pak government has frozen the accounts and assets of the nuclear scientist, Dr Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mehmood, recipient of Presidential Award Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1999 , on the recommendations of the UN Security Council for his links with Taliban and Al Qaeda network.Dr Mehmood was the first project director of Kahuta Research Laboratories from 1973 till 1976 and Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan worked as his subordinate during that time. Later, through an in-house change, Dr Qadeer replaced Dr Mehmud. The nuclear scientist is also said to be the designer and architect of the indigenous nuclear reactor. On March 23, 1999, the President of Pakistan conferred Sitara-i-Imtiaz on Dr Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mehmood in recognition of his services to the country. During January 2001, Dr Mehmood established a flour mill in Kandahar and also met Taliban supreme leader Mulla Omar, in the company of a former PAEC employee, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, and a businessman of Lahore, Mirza Yusuf Beg. After Sept 11 attacks on the US, Dr Mehmood was arrested by Pakistani intelligence agencies on Oct 23 from Lahore.

 USA & THE WORLD : A YEAR AFTER NINE ELEVEN

By

Maj Gen  K S Pendse (Retd)

 

 “We have a vision of a new partnership of nations that transcends the Cold War.  A partnership based on consultation, cooperation and collective action, especially through international and regional organisations.  A partnership united by principle & the rule of law and supported by an equitable sharing of both cost and commitment.  A partnership whose goals are to increase prosperity,  increase the peace and reduce arms.”

President George Bush at the UN General   Assembly on 01 October 1990

 

These words of the US President at the World Parliament for Peace raised the hopes of all mankind thirsting for a “peace dividend” which the end of the Cold War had presaged.  A decade and two wars later – the Gulf War of 1991 and the ongoing War on Global Terrorism – what the world is witnessing is nothing short of anarchy whose coming was predicted by Robert Kaplan as early as 1994 ¬. The US espousal of democracy and the rule of law appears less principled and more expedient through its resumption of military and economic aid to a military dictatorship in Pakistan that has been an epicentre of terrorism ! These are sad events and demand an analysis of where the sole super power is headed and its impact on the rest of the world.

 

US DEMOCRACY IN ACTION

 

The world’s oldest democracy has been ailing for some time.  The New York Times report on the current President’s winning the Presidential Election in 1999-2000, thanks to faulty voting machines in Florida, governed by his brother Jeff Bush, has been smothered.  Apparently, the events of 11th of September 2001 have persuaded the people in USA to let bygones be bygones as far as this election is concerned.

 

But there are symptoms of a deeper malaise that has been distorting American democratic precepts, whether practised at home or abroad.  Three features stand out : first the US support to monarchies and military dictatorships in areas of its geopolitical interest; secondly , its callous throttling of the United Nations where the deprived majority of the world was getting a democratic hearing for the first time in human history; and, thirdly, its polity’s paralysis in the face of mega-corporations’ financial hold over the domestic election process and its aftermath.  The media had reported a while back how even Communist China had indirectly funded President Clinton’s election campaign !

 

As the size and ethnic complexity of the American society spills beyond the traditional “White American” community, it will create a new world of American city states and suburbs, based on ethnic groupings.  The ideological and psychological gap between the ruling elite in Washington and these far flung new city states will widen.  And while these elite in charge of an info-age US war machine will try to manage affairs of a chaotic world, they will also turn more autocratic at home in an effort to control an American society that “has become more fragmented, more individualistic and less disciplined, with institutions such as church, family and school wielding less influence” ­.  The US Founding Fathers would be amazed by the emergence of this hybrid democracy at home, which, no matter how illiberal, may still be treated as legitimate if it can provide homeland security to the American citizens and spark economic growth after the trauma of Nine Eleven.  That is the danger that the USA may face without being aware of its impending metamorphosis.

 

 

A  PREDATORY US ECONOMY

 

No less a person than Prof Noam Chomsky has chronicled in his book “Year 501 : The Conquest Continues”  how the US has achieved its economic pre-eminence through subjugation and conquest of less advanced economies.  Analysing Haiti , Latin America, Cuba and  Indonesia, Chomsky draws parallels between the genocide in colonial times and the murder and exploitation associated with modern day US imperialism.  Private armies of American corporations eliminated sane voices in target countries allegedly including President Allende of Chile, all in aid of US prosperity at any cost.  “The US priorities are profits and power; democracy in more than form is a threat to be overcome; human rights are of instrumental value for propoganda purposes, nothing more”, writes Chomsky ®.

 

The problem stems from a mental condition affecting the US and other affluent societies of the world, rightly called “affluenza” by John De Graaf, who describes it as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste, resulting from dogged pursuit of ‘more’, because of a feverish mind-set that is burning up the natural systems that support life on earth” ¯.  According to the UN Development Report, 1996, the 200 richest individuals of the world have a combined worth of US$ 1 trillion, and 60 of them reside in the US.  About US$ 8 trillion in outlaw wealth is sloshing around the world’s tax-havens in an estimated 1.5 million off-shore corporations.  The income gap between the fifth of the world’s people living in the richest nations and the fifth living in the poorest countries has increased from 30:1 in 1960 to 74:1 in 1998.  As the UNDP report says, development that perpetuates such grotesque inequalities is neither sustainable nor worth sustaining.

 

No doubt, globalisation of economy cannot be reversed.  But the way it is proceeding invites instability and even insurrection.  The facts stated above suggest a lingering predatory trend in the human community and a miserable and miserly self-indulgence that cloaks itself in the morality of the market place.  Those who benefit most from the spread of free market economy are unwilling to embrace the morality of “enough”.  Such self-absorption is overwhelming the adaptive capacities of societies around the world that are prey to such predatory economic policies and practices over and above laying waste to the natural environment.  A society that runs an experiment to see where its breaking point is located, is a stupid society.  As Jeff Gates remarks  °, today’s unconscionable economic disparities not only affect the Americans, but also reflect their psyche.  It should spur them to ponder just what sort of democracy they mean to leave for their descendants, if they allow the political & business interests to conspire to concentrate power  and influence and subvert the very ideological basis of a democratic USA.

 

It is worth pondering over that out of the world’s hundred largest economies, fifty one are not countries but corporations.  The five hundred largest corporations account for 70 percent of world trade.  David C. Corten ± argues that it is environmental degradation induced by corporate policies which forces millions associated with a declining economy, lack of strong democratic political institutions and disruption of traditional processes of mediation away from their land.  Political conflict degenerates into anarchy, as in Africa, disrupting forces of corporate food production and distribution. More deaths result from starvation & disease than from the conflict itself.  This is the world towards which the forces of corporate colonisation are moving the world’s rich and poor inexorably, without exception. Post Nine Eleven, President Clinton ² had urged the Americans to acknowledge that they have not always been blameless, and to realise that a lot of people are angry with them, for perpetuating an iniquitous global order in which these deprived people do not know how to be a part of tomorrow as they cannot find the door !  He went on to say, “You cannot have a global trading system or a global market governing your lives without a global economic policy, a global environmental policy & a global security policy. That means creating more opportunity for those unfortunate people left behind by progress, so that the pool of potential terrorists is reduced by increasing the number of potential partners. This is the struggle of the soul of the 21st Century”. Will the US take heed ?

 

USA’S SHORTSIGHTED DIPLOMACY

 

The directness of US diplomacy is inimitable but it is seldom directed towards the vision articulated by its successive presidents.  Henry Kissinger, the realist, has always advocated that the US should play on the insecurity of other nations in order to further its own security.  Paying lip-service to traditional American values, he insists these “cannot be translated into an agenda of immediate final outcomes” ³. His influence on US policy making has been palpable; he is considered a modern day Metternich.  So the US helped Iraq’s Saddam Hussein fight a prolonged war against Iran, an adversary that had held US Embassy staff hostage for years.  And when Soviet Russia occupied Afghanistan, the US trained Afghan mujahideen and Osama bin Laden and others to wage a guerrilla war against the Russians.  When Pakistan prompted the Talibans to capture Afghanistan, the US turned a blind eye.  It did the same when Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons & missiles capable of delivering them, despite a clearly articulated  US policy to prevent nuclear proliferation.  And after Nine Eleven, it ignored all proof of Pakistan’s complicity in supporting Taliban regime in Afghanistan & backing Jehadi terrorists including Al Quaida.  It ignored a direct participation of Pakistan’s military personnel in fighting the Northern Alliance at Kunduz & other places.  In fact the US allowed such Pak  personnel to be air-lifted by air. It continues its reliance on Pakistan as a front-line ally even though a US news reporter and US embassy personnel were killed brutally in separate incidents in Musharraf’s Pakistan.  One wonders whether such real politik as an instrument of serving US interest in Caspian oil and gas being piped through Afghanistan and Pakistan is worth sacrificing so many innocent lives.  To date the US does not appear to have faced the  fundamental problem of Islam’s reformation so very necessary if the Islamic nations are to fit into a liberal democratic mould.  When will the US policy makers listen to General Wesley Clark’s assessment, that it is for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to decide whether Islam is a religion of tolerance or of  terrorism !

 

The whole issue of  US perception of its national interest & ways of securing it needs to be discussed now, before it is too late.  The US ought to learn from its failure to ensure peace between Israel and PLO, where a cycle of violence has made a mockery of Camp David accord.  The US logistic build-up in the Persian Gulf and the joint US-British air attack on Iraq’s ground installation on 04 September 2002, show an impatience with the views of other nations in a situation of uncertainty.  Not wanting to take any chances of another terrorist attack against the US homeland, President Bush (Junior) and his colleagues are eager to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iraq which is suspected, without proof , of developing weapons of mass destruction for use against America.  But others suspect a US desire to dominate Iraq for its vast oil reserves, estimated to be as large as those of Saudi Arabia.  Paul Kennedy’s warning about an “imperial overstretch” leading the mighty nations in recent history to their downfall ´ may have fallen on deaf US ears.  But that warning is timeless!

 

The US unilateralism has been evident in the present administration’s decisions to build a national missile defence which will erode current nuclear balance, to walk out of Kyoto protocol and criticize environmentalists at Johannesburg, and now to topple Saddam Hussein in a hurry.  This “hubris” bodes ill for the prospects of US as the sole super power really leading the comity of nations to a new world order envisioned by President Bush (Senior) twelve years ago.

 

THE EMERGING CHALLENGES

 

Events of Nine Eleven have changed the world forever.  It has brought home to the ordinary US citizen his utter vulnerability despite being separated from the rest of the world by vast oceans.  Having brought about the demise of the Soviet empire, there was exultation in the West that capitalism had won.  But it is clear that how to make capitalism ‘democratic’ remains a challenge before the US and its affluent friends who find themselves increasingly in the grip of mega-corporations, many of whose front-men have become presidents & prime ministers in the so-called “free world”.  It is necessary to ensure that the insights of one generation become the common sense of the next  through legislation and common practice.  Otherwise such hard-learned lessons are easily lost.

 

From Rio to Johannesburg the US has shown a reluctance to accept the challenge that environmental degradation is bound to pose with every passing year.  Over the next 50 years the earth’s population will soar from 6 billion to more than 9 billion.  And 95 per cent of this increase will be in the poorest regions where governments have shown little ability to function let alone to implement even marginal improvement.  Ignoring nature will have incredible security implications when vast movements of homeless and deprived populations due to climatic change and rising sea-levels will make a borderless world a frightening reality.

 

And as such population flows increase, making the cities around the world into sprawling villages, more power will be exercised by the less educated, and less sophisticated groups.  Economic modernisation will solve nothing as it will only increase individual and group selfishness while weakening loyalty to the nation-state.  A rapid rush to the cities is remaking civilizations in terms of religion and tribal loyalties, transcending the borders of the existing states.  A call to the loyalty of Islamic “ummah” sends an appeal to a billion plus Muslims from Algeria to Indonesia, and to their diaspora in the affluent West, with sometimes tragic results as on Nine Eleven.  The US can no longer afford to ignore the linkages between  environment and the future of mankind.

 

Energy security is a challenge whose gravity will be apparent by mid 21st Century when proven reserves of oil will have been severely depleted.  The US has launched a drive to ensure its own energy security.  But it does not realise how such a narrow nationalistic approach can further antagonize those Islamic countries that are the actual possessors of this natural resource.  As a super-power, the US ought to pursue a policy of cooperation and bring about a global energy protocol based on a just and equitable sharing of the Earth’s bounty.  Whose Earth is it anyway ?  is a question the US should ponder over before it is too late.

 

Though the US is the mightiest power on the Earth today, there is every  likelihood of the emergence of a multipolar world in a global order linked to the nation-state.  At the same time, a growing anarchy described above because of a refusal of the affluent nations to learn from Nine Eleven, will break down existing distinctions between war and crime.  For an increasing number of people around the world, especially youth, minorities and women, there is no longer a dream of a more prosperous and secure future, only the bleak prospect of despair, deprivation and brutalising violence.  Such people provide ready recruits for terrorist organisations all over the world.  How to make them partners in progress is an immediate challenge to the US and its affluent allies.

 

SHAPING THE FUTURE

 

No doubt, all nations are guilty of thinking in an archaic manner by putting their own security above all other issues.  They do not question whether an affluent minority with all advantages of  superior technology and military might can quarantine out human misery of the deprived majority.  The Western economic model extolled as the only way to prosperity stands exposed with the recent fall of mega-corporations like Enron and WorldCom.  Why has humanity at large legitimised and institutionalised greed and selfishness as no other previous civilization has ever done?  And has not such legitimisation of greed challenged the moral fabric of contemporary society?  It is this promotion and acceptance of a global economic inequality of horrendous proportions by the US and its affluent allies that has contributed, alongwith its nuclear hypocrisy, to the perpetuation of the Ugly American image.  Though quite inhuman, the events of Nine Eleven did reflect the burning ire of the disadvantaged in this global village, created ironically by technological revolution in the affluent West.  The time for pushing the dirt under the carpet is over. 

 

Should the US learn to introspect, it will see that it is the growing divide between the rich and the poor, which poses the greatest threat to the future of mankind.  If the fact that a few are exploiting the many is not accepted, mankind will destroy itself.  The outer form may vary: it may be a war on terrorism, or a clash of civilizations, or a war of redistribution of people and resources or again a worldwide Islamic Jehad.  It may be justified as the end of history which permits Fukuyama’s ‘Last Man’ to wipe out the rest of unenlightened humanity. Or it may be called ‘The White Man versus the Rest’.The stage has been set for this mother of all wars in which the ashes of the victors and the vanquished  will be indistinguishable. Oswald Spengler had estimated that a declining Western civilisation could cease to matter by the 22nd Century. The only way to prove Spengler wrong is for the U S to take the lead in bringing about a global mind change which accepts a holistic outlook on life and leads mankind to live as one family in a just and peaceful world.

 

¬1. ‘The Coming Anarchy’ by Robert D. Kaplan, the Atlantic Monthly, February 1994

­  Thomas E. Ricks, “The Widening Gap”, The Atlantic Monthly, July 91

 

®2. “Year 501 : The Conquest Continues” by Noam Chomsky, South End Press, Boston USA, 1993, Page 89

3.¯ “Affluenza” by John De  Graaf, Berrett-Koehler Publisher Inc. San Francisco, USA, 2001

4. “Democracy at Risk” by Jeff Gates, Perseus Publishers, Cambridge, Ma. USA 2000”

When Corporations Rule the World by David C. Corten, Berrett Koehler Publishers Inc. San Francisco,   USA,1995

5.World without Walls by William Jefferson Clinton, The Times of India, dated January 11th, 2002

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Paul Kennedy,  Random House, New York, 1987

6.Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994