WHITHER GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM?

 

BY

 

Lt Gen Ashok Joshi (Retd)

 

 

Very few events in the past had ever produced the kind of world wide impact that the ‘Nine-eleven’ did. The deliberate ramming of two giant aero planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September11, 2001 was actually seen on their TV screens by millions of viewers. Many had been alerted by the crash of the first plane. They saw in utter disbelief the second plane flying into the towers. The shock was further heightened when the towers just collapsed. It was almost impossible to come to terms with what had actually happened, and viewers continued to watch and listen without full comprehension, not wanting to trust what they saw and heard. Unfortunately the real loss and damage proved to be even greater than what even the authors of this disaster had anticipated. The news about yet another plane having crashed into the Pentagon only added to the enormity of the disaster. The brave resistance of the passengers on a fourth plane, at the cost of their own lives, thwarted the plan of the hijackers, and at least one more disaster was avoided. ‘Nine-eleven’ got etched on many minds all over the world.

The loss of life and property attracted world wide sympathy. The disfiguring of the New York skyline was certainly an act of vandalism. Beyond that, there was an understandable upsurge of righteous anger against the perpetrators of this horror not only in the US, but also in many other parts of the world. It was not long before the US President declared war on terrorism. In that he was supported by its traditional allies and several other nations, and soon it turned into a global war on terrorism. The world at large was informed by the US President that all faced a clear choice of either being with the US—in its war on terrorism—or against it. Some countries did not need any persuasion to support the US in its war on terrorism. India, for instance, having itself been a victim of terrorism for over three decades, showed extraordinary alacrity. Clearly, their interests converged. Even some others found it expedient to make common cause with the US because of the menace inherent in the US stance. Cruise missiles have their own persuasive logic and cruise missile diplomacy seems to work for a while at least. Many in India remember the old imperial adage that paramount power is really paramount. The modern version is that the only super power is truly super.

Terrorism[1]— the use of organized violence for political purposes by non state actors against one or more nation states with the support of, or at the instance of, other nation states—was not sighted as a new phenomenon for the first time on Nine-eleven, but it caused the US to declare war on terrorism. India has been tackling terrorism all these years, but now it has much to learn by observing the larger picture and by applying its mind to how the war is being prosecuted by the US, and what kind of success it is likely to attain. India had, at least in the initial stages, hoped that it would also gain directly in is some ways as a result of the US war on terrorism. India had absolutely no reason to make such an assumption[2], and it was not long before disillusionment started to creep on it. The US support to Pakistan perplexes India, but should it? As the US homes on to the beacon of its national interests, it intertwines numerous strands of many other items on its agenda. When the US prosecutes its war on terrorism, now styled the global war on terrorism, it seeks specific purpose based assistance from its coalition partners in exchange for favours it can bestow, and concessions that it can make. It is no more than an arrangement of convenience. It will last till both find the need to live with it.

India fears that its fight with terrorism in the sub-continent may get derailed unless the US removes the internal contradiction inherent in its policy. It seems to put up with its coalition partner fuelling terrorism in Kashmir. Having been at it for almost three decades—and before that with the ‘secular’ variety of terrorism for another decade or so—India has enough experience not to expect quick results. Terrorism has been nurtured in its neighbourhood for over a generation and it is unlikely to disappear in a hurry. India has dealt with separatist terrorism in the Northeast more or less successfully, and the end appears to be in sight. But it sees no signs of success in its fight against the Jihadi variety of terrorism. India has very high stakes in the outcome of war on Jihadi terrorism. 

India needs to take into account the likely impact and long term consequences of the US war on terrorism, even as both countries follow their own agenda. But the US is not just another country, and its agenda has a truly global significance. Therefore, it is important to review and understand its war on terrorism, and particularly so because a very large number of Muslims live in the sub-continent; more Muslims live in India than in Pakistan[3]. India must not be blindly imitative of the US without, at the same time, ever forgetting that the US is ‘ahead’ of most countries. What happens in the US today in the political, economic, and social domains is indicative of what is likely to happen elsewhere in the world in a few years from now. This piece is about the US war on terrorism, and therefore it focuses critical attention on it, but some of that criticism is also applicable to India.

The results obtained by the US in its war on terrorism have been considerable. It has cleansed Afghanistan of the dreaded Taliban and dislodged the main base—Al Qaeda—of Osama Bin Laden, who was forced to flee, unless of course he is dead. Though considerable, the success has not been spectacular, in that the fate or whereabouts of either Osama or his close lieutenants is known with any degree of certainty. They seem to have merely dispersed, and may well be in hiding, waiting for more favourable circumstances.

In the immediate wake of Nine-eleven, many countries had found it expedient to give up their ambivalence with respect to Jihadi terrorism. Faced with dire consequences, the former backers of the Taliban, who had hosted Osama not too long ago, turned on both, and became coalition partners in war on terrorism. Many in the international community thought at the time that it would be in bad taste to point out to the US that they were certainly opposed to terrorism, and yet, did not agree with the US agenda on all counts. But this distinction in approaches is coming slowly to the fore. And now there are visible signs that the protest vote has started to register even among the traditional US allies. At least one German politician thought it fit to give vent to her anger against some of the policies, being pursued by the US in the name of war on terror. In the run up to the general elections on September 22, 2002, she chose to speak out her mind possibly because she calculated that the sentiment was common, and that she was doing no more than merely echoing it. There are protests even in the UK against the Government’s policy of totally backing the US in disregard of other considerations. At the time of writing this piece, the issue of dealing with Iraq seems to be causing grave misgivings in many minds through out the world.

This clearly is a time to take stock of things with a view to examining what more needs to be done to lay the menace of terrorism to rest; and also, what needs to be avoided in pursuing the so called war on terror so that this exercise does not turn out to be counter-productive, or even worse, harmful.

It would appear that there are two basic causative factors for terrorism to breed: states weakened by dissonance between the rulers and the ruled; and faith in an ‘implacable’ ideology. For substantial dissonance between the rulers and the ruled to persist, the ruling class has to have an alien mindset on account its origin and/or attitudes. If and when lacking representative character, the rulers tend to rule arbitrarily, nurture their own constituencies, and rely mainly on force[4]. In many cases, outside interests and assistance hold them in place. An ideology becomes implacable when its belief and value system oppose the freedom and dignity of the individual on the one hand, and the need for change as a way of life, on the other hand. Because of the fundamental dissonance, the level of ambient violence by the instruments of the state has to be raised to carry out routine functions inherent in governance. The response by the spirited ‘subjects’ in such situations takes equally violent forms, particularly if implacable ideologies have a hold both on the rulers and the ruled. Such oppressive atmosphere proves to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Thereafter, terrorists thus bred, can practice their craft only when they derive support from other nation states that benefit by drawing upon their enthusiasm and commitment.

To prove such a proposition would require substantial marshalling of facts which is not the aim of this piece. But this somewhat facile conclusion[5] can be verified by listing the states from where terrorists have been recruited in large numbers, or ideologies which terrorist organizations profess, or the states without support of which they would not exist. A very large number of terrorists come from Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and components of former Yugoslavia or Soviet Union. What they have in common are states which are very weak and subscribe to implacable ideologies. Saudi Arabia is ‘weak’ to the extent that its rulers are ‘kept’ in place without significant popular support. Palestine is not a full-fledged state and is home to a large number of terrorist organizations. Terrorists from either side of the line of control in Kashmir would not be able to execute strikes with considerable success without Pak support. Strengthening of the nation state system, tackling of implacable ideologies by political means, and depriving the terrorist outfits of state support could be amongst the important policy objectives of war on terrorism.

One of the significant assertions that President Bush made soon after Nine-eleven was that no past happenings can justify terrorism. In fact, terrorism is indefensible per se. Then what is the significance of the caveat? Is it a deliberate reluctance to deal with the causes that give rise to terrorism? Or is it an injunction to forget what the US itself did and encouraged in the past? Is the past amenable to being thus erased by injunctions? Perhaps not; it is unremitting and does exact its price by producing consequences that have to be dealt with now, and in the future. There is no escape from tackling causes of terrorism. They have to be dealt with and eliminated. This is a slow process and does not militate against immediate action against terrorists here and now. The above propositions would indicate that the policy thrust for dealing with the causes of terrorism should include facilitating the creation of conditions for the removal of dissonance in weak nations; encouraging the more rational and liberal elements in those nations to interpret their ideologies in a manner that they are not out of step with contemporary times; and severely discouraging state support to terrorist organizations. This may be a more productive approach than further destabilizing weak states that breed or support terrorism. Reasons in support follow in the next paragraph.

Through practice and precedent, over last 350 years or so, the basic building block of the present international order, namely the nation state as an institution, has matured. It is the highest level at which there is the greatest possibility of reconciling the individual and collective security and aspirations. Other experiments, such as the European Union are being tried out, and hopefully, it will succeed, thus evolving a higher organizational structure catering equally to the individual and collective requirements. But it has yet to stand the test of ‘hard times’. Till then, the nation state seems to be the highest level at which there is an effective convergence of accountability, responsibility, and authority.

A feeling has been gathering amongst the developing countries over a period of time, that the industrialized North including the US has not done enough to restrain its major corporations from employing unsavoury means to obtain best possible returns on their investments. Multinationals have been resorting to practices which may not be allowed in countries where their principals are located. Multinationals show scant regards for the environmental concerns, test drugs which may not be fully safe, or export genetically altered crops without much thought to the consequences. In their hurry to realize quick returns on their capital, they tend to weaken fragile economies. They do not observe the full regime of safety standards that is applicable in their parent countries. Admittedly this does not happen without the active collaboration of the interested parties in the developing world. Culpability may be shared, but the consequences of destabilization and disaffection cannot but create environment that is conducive to weakening of the nation state. Not so much underdevelopment, although that also counts, but it is the cynical exploitation of the underdogs that builds up anger and frustration which are the prime emotions on which terrorism feeds. Supra-national agencies like the IMF are seen as the vanguards of the economic imperialism. A lot needs to be done to improve upon the substance and form of development. Development should not be perceived by the weak states as a cultural invasion by the developed nations to facilitate the sale of goods in the underdeveloped world.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the US engaged the Soviet Union in a proxy-war. It put arms in the hands of those who were not accountable to anyone, and in an area where violence had been endemic for more than a century; where governance without brutal force had become virtually impossible. This gave fillip to Jihadi militancy. The mujahids were convinced that they were ‘right’. Very good learners, they mastered every trick of irregular warfare. Fractious and clannish, they soon reverted to their old ways and ideas with new weapons and techniques. Afghanistan which was a rather reluctant nation state turned into complete anarchy and what was left on ground was Taliban, responsible for nothing, and accountable to no one. Ultimately, the US had to ‘create’ a nation state in Afghanistan so that there were some points of accountability to exert on. The lesson seems to be that it is better to deal with a nation state, even if it is a ‘rogue’, than to erase it using ‘freedom fighters’—our own boys—as an instrument.

The US has defined what has to have the highest priority in its strategy: it gets the fix by ‘triangulation’ from radicalism, high technology, and weapons of mass destruction. This triangulation leads the US, at present, unmistakably to Iraq. Is it a mere coincidence that triangulation from the stand points of oil-interest, the security of Israel, and enduring geopolitical considerations also yields the same result, namely that Iraq has to be proceeded against.

Why is Iraq—yesterday’s ally, turned foe—the prime target, say in comparison with North Korea, or Iran for that matter? Is the current world wide anger against terrorism being used as a leverage to push through another agenda? This question becomes particularly relevant because many think that attack on Iraq will ill serve the purpose of war on terrorism. If many Muslim states get weakened as an upshot, there would be substantial rise in the potential terrorists.

This impression of another and altogether different agenda being followed by the US is gaining ground because of the way the UN are being subsumed by the US. It would appear that the UN are treated with respect only when they support the US and allies; and when they fail to do so, even their dues are not cleared. It is a step backwards from the ultimate goal of evolving supra-national institutions which would rid the world of some of the less attractive features of the world order founded on the nation state system. The objective of a commonwealth of nations will recede from mankind if the UN are dragooned into the desired resolutions, or treated with scant regard. Dysfunctional and toothless UN are likely to lead to greater disorder and discord. Terrorism thrives on disorder and chaos, and war on terrorism will not succeed through defiance of or indifference to the UN.

Suicide bomber is the weapon system of the terrorists—it is their equivalent of the manned cruise missile and the satellite directed smart bomb, all rolled into one. No matter how abhorrent and gruesome the idea is in so far as the victims are concerned, it is the instrument of power that the terrorists have forged. It is their principal means of projecting power. Little is to be gained by expending energy in reviling the instrument instead of dealing effectively both with the sources of strength and instruments of power of the terrorists. At present, the emphasis seems to be only on the latter and not enough attention is being paid to the former.

Starting with WWII, all nations developed what are now called special operations forces in a big way. Their methods of irregular warfare are very effective, but not pretty[6]. Very few countries would be willing to open up to the general scrutiny what their special operatives practice while executing covert operations. The short point is that their ways are quite comparable to those of the terrorists all though their motivation and purpose is different. Their use against known terrorists and their supporters would be a far more effective, and in the long run a less damaging option, in comparison to the massive aerial bombing, smart or otherwise. What hampers the developed nations is neither awareness nor capacity to act, but unwillingness to take risks or casualties. Their human intelligence seems to have dried up for the very same reasons, and without it, their special forces are hampered. If the terrorism is to be fought, some of the old ways and means would have to be resurrected. It would appear that the US shies away from employing ground troops, and for that reason, use excessive force from the skies. The much acclaimed ‘smartness’ of bombs and missiles is suspect, but their lethality is proven. The result is that there is unintended destruction and damage which does not further the aim of the war on terrorism. The consequences of the bombing in Afghanistan are not fully known at present, but it is obvious that a lot of collateral damage has taken place. Another upshot is that the US is required to choose coalition partners who are willing to operate on ground, and push their private agenda. If the reports about the death of a large number of prisoners in Afghanistan as a result of asphyxiation and dehydration while being held captive in metal containers are correct, the actions of the coalition partners cannot but set back aims of war on terrorism.

A suicide bomber is not amenable to deterrence or dissuasion because he seeks his glory in the next world. He is to be stopped physically, that is by eliminating him before he is within striking distance of the target, or ideally before he gets a chance to leave his launch pad. Targets can be denied to him through barriers and protective curtains. The degree of difficulty for the suicide bomber can be increased, and may be some terrorists are thwarted, or some damage limitation is achieved. But even partial damage brought about by the suicide bomber achieves substantial effect—it adds to the terror. The security community may derive some comfort from minimizing damage and through damage limitation, but fear spreads all the same. There is absolutely no reason for not using force on known terrorist hideouts and training camps, even if it is disproportionately high. But in practical terms, this is difficult to bring about. Intelligence is often poor, or information is ‘sold’ by terrorists themselves only when the camp is deserted. Information is fed for settling old scores, or to mislead the counter-terror operatives so that the innocents become victims. Thus, for one hit on the right target, a fair number of unproductive or even disastrous strikes take place. The damage to the cause of counter-terrorism through unavoidable collateral damage is often an additional liability in that it only adds to the number of those who sympathize with the cause of the terrorists. The options that are open to the terrorists are simply not available to responsible nation states.

In recent times, the US became aware of the vulnerability of its mainland when the Sputnik was sighted in 1957. The experts knew that it was a matter of time before nuclear capable missiles could be delivered on mainland US. This caused new trends of thought in strategic thinking. Intermediate range missiles were deployed in Europe, and NASA was created. It was important to be able to threaten Moscow with missiles from Europe, and catch up with the Soviets. The aim was to ensure decoupling of Europe, and at the same time to protect the US. Regional, sub-regional intervention followed in the name of ‘containment’. This resulted in the local self regulating checks and balances being subsumed by the US projections. The results were terrible. The US reaction to Nine-eleven includes ‘homeland security’, and other responses of the Cold War days: preemptive strikes, deterrence, and so on. Nine-eleven brought back terrible memories of Pearl Harbor: death raining down from the sky. It also brought back some thing else: war on the axis power got transformed into war on the axis of evil; the language of unconditional surrender got turned into ‘if you are not with us, you are against us’. There was talk of retribution. Only an all consuming global war for survival may justify this rhetoric, if at all.

President Bush was at pains to describe that US had to fight a new kind of war, but the responses were not any the different; not significantly so. The US reaction is momentous and massive, but is it appropriate? Missiles could save the US from the Soviets, but will they be of avail while dealing with terrorists? Saddam can be deterred or threatened by missiles, but what about Osama? Will the desire to dominate the world by military might improve things for the US? Osama Bin Laden, the author of the unforgivable and yet audacious and effective attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon calls his organization the World Front for Jihad against Crusaders and Jews[7], casting himself in the role of the chief avenger. It is obvious that he looks upon the US as crusaders and the supporters of Jews. Unfortunately, at least some in the Muslim world seem to think not very differently; and their numbers are not small either. They may not actively support terrorism, but they do sympathize. If the numbers of sympathizers had not been assessed by the rulers in Muslim states to be very substantial, they would not have feared the popular reactions against US strikes against any Muslim nation. They may be no friends of Saddam, but they fear the consequences. So far, they had juggled successfully, and kept one ball in the air, by quietly extending support to the terrorists in acquiring fake identities and arranging money transfers on the one hand, while assuring the US on the other hand that they did not countenance terrorism. In the bargain, they also reduced their own discomfiture by pushing terrorists out of their own backyards. How else do you expect the impunity with which the terrorists moved around without any let or hindrance and did not seem to lack money. This is a reflection of the sympathy that the terrorists seemed to have in the heart of Muslims at large. It is not known if things have greatly changed after Nine-eleven. War on terrorism has to be won by reducing the sympathy for the Jihadi Islam. And this can be achieved best by those who are themselves Muslims, that is, Muslims who can see the reality of the secular domain, and even more that the nation state, and much of the activity of the nation state has to lie in the secular domain. The best approach to counter-terrorism is to wean away the terrorists before they feel the pull of the ‘cause’, and to deprive the terrorists of their sympathizers who support their cause. That, the large number of sympathizers, is the principal asset of the terrorist leadership. The main problem with this approach is that the victims of terrorism fail to see the rationale, attitudes, the belief system, and the interpretation of history of those who create and fan terrorism as a cause. The cause has to be neutralized politically.

Terrorists are not responsible for any constructive endeavour, not even in the eyes of their sympathizers. They are not accountable to anyone here in this world. Such authority as they possess depends upon their will to use weapons in their possession without remorse or mercy. The totality of force they use cannot but culminate into greater misery and destruction. They have some capacity to de-construct, but none for re-construction; not within the existing international order of which the nation state is the basic building block. Terrorists do have a vision, at least militant Jihadis do—and it calls for the establishment of khilafah state. Even after achieving their objectives, the Jihadis are required to continue the fight “for the purpose of carrying Islam to the rest of mankind and for the protection of the Khilafah state and Muslims[8].” This in some ways is comparable to the communist-international movement: the commitment to fight till the entire mankind is ‘converted’. Considering, that even the comparatively orthodox Muslim states actually feared this vision—because they had much to lose—Jihadi terrorism in practice amounts to inchoate but intense violence. The Jihadi dream includes a throw back to the least agreeable features of the seventh century AD ways life in so far as individual rights and freedoms are concerned. The world had a first hand glimpse of the vision when the Taliban ‘ruled’ in Afghanistan—stoning, beatings, public executions, confinement of women to their houses, ban on music, and so on. Terrorists do have a vision and a religious cum political theory about their vision. Disillusioned also by many of the features of ‘modernization’—as practiced by the Shah in Iran, for instance, the Jihadi vision does seem attractive to a substantial number of individuals in the Islamic world. There is no denying the obvious conclusion that a substantial number of Muslims sympathize with terrorists and their ways, may be because they are frightened, and also perplexed, but they do. What other explanation can there be for the kind of support they draw in terms of money and fresh recruits. A battle is commonly seen as a force upon force clash of wills, which most of the time it is. But it could also be the application of force against a target to achieve immediate results, and even more, some enduring consequences which can then be exploited to fight and win the next battle with even better returns. This sequence can continue till the war-aim is achieved. This is the logic of massive air strikes against non military ‘value’ targets, although it is strenuously denied. Many of the bombings in Iraq in the Gulf War, those in Yugoslavia to oust Milosevic, and in Afghanistan from October 2001 onwards, are the more recent examples of application of force against value targets. Death and destruction of non-combatant civilians is passed off as unavoidable collateral damage, which many times it is, but not as often as it is claimed by the defenders of air strikes. Terrorists seem to follow comparable logic in designing their battles, campaigns and wars: use of massive force against carefully chosen targets to achieve the aims of the Jihad. But there is one salient difference. Militant Jihadis do look upon the striking of terror as a major strategic device and choose to highlight the misery and pain of their victims. In order to make the divide between themselves and the rest even sharper, they also deliberately exhibit a ghoulish delight in their handy work. Disgusting though it is, it need not blind us to the fact that strikes by terrorists is their method of power projection. The problem with viewing acts of terrorism merely as criminality and/or barbarity is that the focus of enquiry does not shift beyond the examination of the ‘sick’ behaviour of the terrorists. Such an approach offers an easy way out, because it ascribes the motivation of the terrorists to ‘sickness’—by whatever name, fanaticism, radicalism, or fundamentalism. It overlooks the political thrust, war-aims, organization, strategy, tactics, et al of the Jihadi militants.

Terrorist-organizations, at least those that target the US, should have withered by now, since they have been under continuous attack for the last one year. But that does not seem to be the case. Very few front ranking associates of Osama have been brought to book; as far as Osama is concerned, he is at large. His international network spreads from Philippines westward to Kosovo. His sympathizers, particularly the non-vocal ones, are to be found through out the Muslim countries. They find his ideology, no matter how vague, attractive; means adopted by him appropriate. If this were not so, the steady of supply of young men and women to the fold of terrorism would have dried up, for one thing; also the Muslim states en mass would have cooperated in hounding out the Al Qaeda operatives, which they do not seem to be doing, if results achieved are any guide. Most of the rulers in the Islamic world would not have shown a fear of a ground swell against them whenever there are major operations by the US. There were processions and protests against the US operations against Osama in October 2001, but these did not assume the mammoth scale because there had been a visibly grave provocation in nine-eleven and the link with Osama was undeniable. But the retribution theme seems to have lost legitimacy since then, and the fear of counter-terrorism being perceived as a crusade is gaining ground amongst the leadership in the Muslim world.

The leadership in the Muslim world is afraid that the strikes would cause a ground upsurge with very adverse consequences to themselves. Why should the strikes on Iraq prove to be the proverbial last straw on the camels back? It is so, because a very large numbers in the Muslim world look upon Saddam as a Muslim victim. It is the Muslim ‘brotherhood’ which feels threatened. If this reality is not accepted, and political measures are not taken to deal with this misconception, ‘war on terrorism’, may not succeed, although anti-terrorist operations may show positive results. Success in anti-terrorist operations is essential but not sufficient to deal with the menace of terrorism.

It is highly unlikely that the war on terrorism will be won within the current philosophy and structure of the world order. A shift is necessary; more correctly, a leap out of the present morass. A move away from the current ‘power politics’ to ‘goodness politics’—a phrase used by Aldous Huxley[9]. A move away from ‘enforcing’ own cultural preferences and value systems. They may be intrinsically good and even ‘absolute’, but that is not how they are seen by the disadvantaged. The ultimate aim cannot be anything other than the security and freedom of the individual, if he so desires it. ‘Civilizational wares’ may be displayed but they should not be forced down unwilling throats. The victims look upon this effort as ‘annihilation’ of their preferences and value systems. What perplexed the British a great deal during the 1857 uprising in the sub-continent was that the very populations they had freed from what they considered to be despotic and iniquitous rules of the Indian rajas turned on their ‘benefactors’.

War on terrorism, unlike other wars, calls for concurrent damage limitation and reconstruction. The approach has to be significantly different from that adopted during and after World War II. If one of the reasons for the sympathy for Jihadi militancy by common people in the Muslim world is a perceived  cultural invasion, and commercial exploitation, ideas of democracy and personal freedom will have to be made acceptable to them without their being seen as a further proof of invasion. The change would have to be brought about slowly and by backing the enlightened elements. These ideas must not be seen to be an external plant, or as a Trojan horse. American exceptionalism[10] could easily mean a desire for the domination of the world, in which case it could lead to yet greater conflict from which even the US may not emerge unscathed even if it continues to remain the only superpower. But this exceptionalism could also lead the world towards a different set of attitudes in which there is a genuine acceptance of plurality of cultures, values, religions, ethnicities, races and racial mixes without their being placed on a scale which allots number one slot to everything that is American. A gradual movement away from domination to adjustments would have to take place. The dialogue in the language of power would have to be given up as the preferred option[11].

This is a unique opportunity for the US to begin a march towards the goal visualized by its founding fathers. In earlier times, there were grave practical difficulties and limitations. It would appear that in our times, there is a real possibility that we could move towards a new world. We are living in a unique epoch. No nation state in the past has ever possessed the kind of military and economic power that the US possesses today[12]. That apart, the technology offers means of world-wide communication and exchange of ideas as never before. On the negative side, never before has the world faced the kind of threats that it faces today: population explosion in Asia and parts of Africa with dwindling water resources, the distress of planet earth, widening gap between the available and required energy, and worst of all, a large sections of humanity in the Muslim world that is disenchanted with the contemporary trends and looks upon medieval way of life as the only way out. Technology holds ample promise of coming up with solutions to a substantial majority of major problems if not to all. What holds the world back is the outdated idea about using ‘power’ to dominate. As a legacy of the colonization and the subsequent cold-war, the underdeveloped world has unquestioningly adopted the contemporary model. It would not be willing to move away from the existing power-paradigm unless it sees new and better ways of seeking a place in the sun. The leadership has to come from the US. The idea that the US can live in a protected cocoon when the there is a terrible turmoil in the rest of the world is fallacious. But if current trends and pronouncements were to be an indication, no signs of the change are visible or audible.

It looks as if the global war on terrorism is being subsumed by the more enduring US interests, and the strategies for the two do not seem to converge.



[1] The description of terrorism that appears in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September, 2002, is as follows:

 “terrorism—premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.”  If violence against the ‘innocents’ were the main criteria, the entire concept of strategic bombing of value targets would have to be examined ab initio.

[2] The following from the US National Security Sep 02 document should rekindle hopes of India, or should it?

  “While our focus is protecting America, we know that to defeat terrorism in today’s globalized world we need support from our allies and friends. Wherever possible, the United States will rely on regional organizations and state powers to meet their obligations to fight terrorism. Where governments find the fight against terrorism beyond their capacities, we will match their willpower and their resources with whatever help we and our allies can provide.”

[3] Nearly 380 millions Muslims live in the sub-continent; approximately 140 millions in India, and 137 millions in Pakistan. No matter what is said by and in the US, an impression is being gained that “The invasion of Iraq, as and when it happens, will be the last straw. It will be construed as a war against Islam. It will bring the jehadis out in the open.” Mushirul Hasan, ‘Looking ahead with fear’, Indian Express, Pune, September 18, 2002.

[4] The late President General Zia ul Haq often said that the Army was his constituency.

[5]  The US National Security document gives the following explanation: “Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and

drug cartels within their borders.”

[6]The expertise and mindset required of a ‘special force’ if it is to be effective at counter-terrorism obliges it to function as unit of terrorists in uniform.” (P.290), Colin S. Gray, ‘Modern Strategy’, Oxford University Press, 1999.

[7] A fatwa was issued on 20 February 1998 by Osama and others to say that the World Islamic Front would now be known as the World Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders. Bodansky, Yossef, ‘Bin Laden, The Man Who Declared War on America’, Forum, Prima Publishing House, circa 2001. (Page 225)

[8] The quotation is from a study undertaken by Islamist scholars in Jordan. This study throws some light on the vision of the Jihadis. This study may only be representative, but it throws some light on what Jihadis see as the ultimate goal: to fight to protect and spread what they believe to be the true teachings of Islam. Ibid. (Pages 388-89).

[9] Aldous Huxley, ‘Grey Eminence, a Study in Religion and Politics’, Chatto and Windus, London, 1949.

 

[11] The following should give rise to hope though: “Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.”  President Bush, West Point, New York June 1, 2002.

[12] There is no doubt on this score:  “Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence.” This quote is from the US Security Strategy, September, 2002.