Major General K S Pendse (Retd.)




Events of Nine Eleven have proved that it is possible to hurt the US, the sole superpower, by using  'low-tech-high concept’ means of destruction on its own soil. Like tile Japanese Kamikaze pilots of the Second World War, Mohammad Atta and his brand of terrorists humbled US pride and proved the impotence of nuclear deterrence vis a vis such determined non state actors. Followed the war on global terror, and toppling of Taliban and of Saddam Hussein from Afghanistan and Iraq.  But five years later Osama Bin Laden is still free, but more US and allied troops are dying in these countries every day, without profit to show for it. In fact additional terrorist attacks have unsettled nations from Indonesia and India to Spain and UK. Events are unfolding at such a bewildering pace that the Tofflers have had to admit that future is not for the weak hearted.


An indefinite extension of the NPT has merely attempted to perpetuate the nuclear apartheid, though the US has admitted India as a reliable nuclear power to the P-5 Club of nuclear monopolists through the back door. The US possibly had no option but to do so when faced with irresponsible proliferation by Pakistan, whose military dictator has put the entire blame on Dr. A. Q. Khan. It is just a matter of time before Jihadi terrorists use their knowledge of fabricating nuclear device to punish the ‘enemies of Islam’ in a deadly sequel to Nine Eleven! Money is no problem for the Jihadis, whose economy is 5% of the world’s GDP, as they run businesses through their front organisations to generate enough profits in a globalized economy.  Loretta Napoleon, author of ‘Modern Jehad’, in an interview on the CNN network bemoaned the fact that no effort seems to have been made to unearth and uproot the sources of this economy as it would expose the linkages with very people waging the current war on global terror. Apparently, the affluent nations are facing this deadly dilemma of how to have their cake and eat it too.




In a world hypnotised by the rapid spread of global ( read US) culture, in this media dominated information age, the very premise on which the Western strategic and security formulations are based, has seldom been questioned by the rest of the world. Put simply, the premise holds that might is right, and, therefore, strategy is value neutral. From Von Clauswiz to Colin Gray, this has been the basis of their justification for use of force in international affairs. Greed and envy, hatred and fear have triggered most decisions to go to war, which was justified under the cloak of defending one’s supreme national interest, even to the extent of using nuclear weapons against non nuclear adversaries. In reality, it is nothing but a regression which allows one’s animal instincts to have full play in this ‘human zoo’.   


That is why, even after witnessing 100 million deaths in battle and another 170 million butchered in violent political conflicts during the 20th century, no one has questioned –

  • Why have human beings put greed on a pedestal, under the pretext of geo-economics rule their destiny?
  • Why have they allowed mega-corporations to control their lives through their front-men posing as their leaders?
  • Why have science and technology been allowed to run away from human control?
  • Why have nations surrendered their right to live in amity with other nations?


In short, why has the common man stopped thinking?


Edward D Bono, author and teacher of ‘Lateral Thinking’ has put his finger on what is wrong with human thought process. He says, ‘ May be thinking is uncomfortable; may be biologically we are programmed to want to ‘complete’ our thinking as soon as possible.’ This hurry to arrive at a conclusion in  a modern environment that bombards the human mind with a new stimuli and challenges at an ever increasing pace, promotes hasty decision-making on inadequate data-inputs. And the management Gurus rationalise it as ‘decision making under uncertainty’. While dithering is not a virtue jumping to a conclusion in haste can be disastrous in a world bristling with weapons of mass destruction. So, possibly as a result of finding this thinking exercise rather taxing, the common man, even in a democracy, finds it easy to focus on survival in a day –to-day world of competition, by letting his elected leaders choose his future for him.



Such thoughtless abdication of one’s individual freedom of choice, except for a periodic exercise of voting rights in a sham democratic  structure that is mistaken for democracy, has created vested interests, power lobbies and politics of patronage in the developed as well as developing countries of the world.




Theoretically, in a democracy the emphasis is on the individual human being, his hopes and fears, his liberty, dignity and equality with other human beings. A citizen has a right to social, economic and poetical opportunity, to health, welfare, education and a decent standard of living, and above all to hope for and dream of a better world. In search of this dream, a citizen surrenders many of his rights to the state, in order to enjoy a degree of security as would ensure his survival and allow him to shape his world nearer to his heart’s desire. But the modern state has subsumed such aspirations of its citizens under the concept of national interest and elevated the pursuit of its defence above any considerations of all life on earth. Nothing else can explain the stockpiling of over 11000 mega tonnes of nuclear weapons, of which a release of just 500 mega tonnes would trigger a nuclear winter as would extinguish most  life on earth. The cold war may have ended, but there is no evidence that the nuclear-haves promoting a total de-nuclearisation  programme as prelude to saner life on the earth. On the contrary, a vertical proliferation of more advanced nuclear weapons and creation of national/theatre missile defence development programme indicates a prevailing mood of capitalising on an existing technological superiority enjoyed by the advanced countries of the world, which remains as far away from the nuclear-weapon-free state as ever before.  Is that the model of better world that these cradles of democracy hold close to their heart?








 Of course it is naïve to expect that the political front-men of various mega-corporations that rule these affluent Western nations would  do anything to smudge their quarterly bottom lines. That is why there is such a skewed distribution of wealth between as well as within the nations. The UNDP reports have highlighted over the years that 1.3 billion people of a world total of over  6 billion, live on income of less that 1 $ a day; almost half of them live in South Asia. In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people residing in the richest countries had 30 times the income of poorest 20%; by 1995 they became 82 times richer than these poorest 20%. Wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The wealth of 32 richest individuals exceeds the GDP of South Asia. Growing income disparity is evident within nations as well. In Britain, 1% of the population owned 20% of its wealth in 1996,showing thereby that developed nations are not free from inequalities. The reason for such skewed distribution is not far to seek. Eric Habsbawn had remarked on the total autonomy of individual desire so evident in the modern society. Margaret Thatcher was moved to remark that there was no longer any society, only individuals. In recent times, some chief executives of US Mega-corporations have had no qualms about robbing their own employees of their pension funds. That illustrates the nadir reached by the Western economic model that worships money above all else.  


This great disparity in global distribution of wealth is sought to be perpetuated by the affluent West through many mechanisms like the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO so as to favour the G-8 nations in their trade and commerce. And this fierce trade war does metamorphose into shooting wear as in Iraq when the energy security of these states is at stake. Witness the current occupation of that country by the US and its allies, riding the crest of a second wave of Western imperialism.


Such a persistent pursuit of narrow national interest by the oil hungry US was justified by its representative at  the Rio earth summit where he turned down the demand that the US pay for the pollution caused by it. And he added arrogantly that he is neither going to raise the tax burden of the US citizens nor ask them to lower their life style. A lukewarm response of the US administration to Al Gore’s campaign for reducing global warming is a continuation of this arrogant mind-set that refuses to face facts because it is inconvenient to do so.  




Events of 9/11 did shock the US but it did not want to face another disturbing fact that the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East, perceived its high handed, pro Israel behaviour as an unmistakable facet of its ‘Ugly American ‘ persona. In his article titled ‘World Without Walls’, President Clinton urged the Americans to acknowledge that they had not always been blameless and to realise that a lot of people were angry with them for perpetuating an iniquitous world order, in which these deprived people did not know how to be part of tomorrow, as they could not find the door. ‘You cannot have a global trading system or a global market governing y9ur lives,’ he wrote, ‘without a global economic policy, a global environmental policy and 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 potential partners, THIS IS THE SOUL OF STRUGGLE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.’ (emphasis added) This statesman like appeal was carried by the Times of India on January 11, 2002. Iraq was attacked on false pretext of finding WMDs in 2003. Short term US gain seems to prevail over long- term human happiness. It is this short sighted national security view prevalent amongst all nations that needs to be replaced by global security paradigm for mankind to hope for a better tomorrow. And as the sole super power, it is the US that has to set and example as a true global leader instead of rampaging on the world scene as a global cop. Should the US and its allies fail to internalise that unless they think as well as act globally, a bitter hatred caused the world over by their selfishness and Machiavellian ‘real politick ‘ would inspire further deadlier terrorist attacks far worse than the those of 9/11. These may trigger a Huntington-style clash of civilisations, pushing mankind back to the stone age, and outdoing Robert Kaplan’s dark vision an anarchic world unravelling irrevocably. Is this an outcome desired by the security advisors and the rulers of the developed world?   




Security of nations is more a companion to world -peace rather than consequence thereof; as such, both signify state of mind that is free from fear. Peace is not interval between two wars, but a social dynamics or a developmental process that encourages a flowering of human values because of an experimental conviction that all life is one. But to experience that one ness, man has to overcome his animal instincts which make him react violently to a challenge, most of the time. This inner transformation can take place only through education, which requires a supportive milieu that is seldom available in a war torn world.


Be it race, religion, economic disparity, ideological differences or any other issue that causes such strife, a common feature is the exploitation by the few privileged ones of the many at their mercy, at all levels of society. Today, mankind faces extinction if not through sudden nuclear winter then through a slow ecological suicide. What needs to be done for human survival is to bring about a global mind change which would accept a holistic outlook on life. Call it interdependence or interconnectedness, it demands immediate cessation of such exploitation of the deprived majority as well as nature’s non-renewable resources, its species, forests, all done to generate mega profits for a few corporations, without thought for the right of the unborn. Any approach to security among nations that are all partners in globalising economy has to be based on universally accepted global security policy, for which mankind has to shed the age old ‘we versus they’ syndrome and learn to live as one family.    




Ofcourse it would be utopian to expect all of mankind to imbibe this pragmatic ethos, so very essential for human survival, immediately and simultaneously, all over the world. The first step in this direction therefore would be to get all the heads of the state to meet at the UN and accept a form of global governance as would ensure security of all nations.


Today, the UN is the only international organisation with a membership of 192 nations that can become capable of overseeing such a global governance, provided that the world powers at the core of global order empower it to do so. The UN needs to be rejuvenated and given executive powers, with a global intelligence agency and a standing military force, to nip in the bud any impending crisis anywhere in the world.


Historically this function was carried out by an imperial authority. Current US efforts to consolidate and impose a Pax Americana is of the piece with Aristotle’s views expressed in 3rd century B.C. ‘The world is not intended to be disposed of in an evil order; in a multitude of of rulers there is evil, therefore , let there be one Prince.’ One cannot expect a sudden reversal of the empire-building tendency of the US that is out to ‘Hellenise’ the world by imposing their will and culture on one and all, much in the style of Alexander the Great. That such old fashioned, unilateral, empire building with its military and commercial conquests has become a threat to human survival must, first of all must sink into the American psyche and that of its allies, such as G-8 nations. Once this fact is accepted by these leaders through the good offices of UN and the regional organisations, will they believe in man’s survival being linked to his learning to live as one family.


Only then would it be possible to set goals to be reached in a phased and time bound manner, at the regional and global levels, in the following major areas:-

  • Work towards elimination of hunger, thirst and poverty.
  • Attain satisfactory standard of hygiene, health and education.
  • Ensure proper pricing for goods and services sans exploitation.
  • Share the earth’s resources in an equitable manner.
  • Undo damage to human habitat, as much as possible.
  • Take care of the environment while ensuring human welfare, now and in the future.


There will arise many other issues after further and detailed deliberations at national, regional and global levels, which will need to be incorporated in the above suggestions.


But as forecast by the Club of Rome in the 70s, and later as well, there are limits to economic growth, which would force mankind to accept slowing down of the total human economic activity, as the earth’s finite resources get consumed due to human greed. Keeping this in view, the common man has to fight and re-establish his right to lead a sane life, free from all conditioned responses that are implanted in him in the course of his en-culturation in this age of consumerism.


The UN standing force should ‘make’ peace, instead of restoring it or keeping it, because pre-emption rather than reaction has become the flavour of the day. The world was awaiting a peace dividend after the end of the Cold War. Instead it has entered, in Mary Kaldor’s words, an ‘ era of long term, low level, informal violence laced with ethnic cleansing as in Balkans, planned genocide as in Rawanda and terrorist attacks against the enemies of medieval Islam all over the globe. Quelling such violence would need global leadership capable of appreciating changing nature of conflict in which the opponent presents no fixed target. Fighting such a war with 20th century war machine and Second World War tactics would be like ‘eating soup with knife’ as Lawrence of Arabia had observed in his time. Hence the UN peace-making force would have to adapt itself to meet every new challenge in a creative manner. Prior reliable intelligence, gathered in a timely manner on the basis of prescient anticipation, would be critical for its success.





When viewed optimistically, even as the nation- state withers away, wars like those of the 19th and 20th centuries may have become out of date and their armed forces may have become relics of a bygone era. And by adopting a pragmatic stance implicit in the ‘mantra’ of ‘peace through security for all’, the world of the rich and the poor may actualise Kant’s dream of perpetual peace in the 21st century. Paraphrasing and old adage, if there is will, the world will find a way.