Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Whose Century?

Whose Century?
By Narendra Luther

In my article on the Anglo- American attack on Iraq in the April issue (A Fable for our Times), I said that its outcome was predictable. Despite the hype created by the two governments and the western media about the enormity of the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was alleged to be possessing, it was a walkover for the ‘coalition forces’. More than a month after the conquest of Iraq, the victors have not been able to substantiate their charges of the existence of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) with Iraq. This has led to the cynical remark that the initials WMD stood for ‘weapons of mass deception’ and they were in the possession of the coalition forces. Also, if they are now discovered in Iraq, they will be suspected to have been planted, which the Police resort to in many cases. Art Buchwald, the American satirist-columnist has observed that instead of spending 75 billion dollars on eliminating Saddam, the U.S. administration could have got it done in one billion dollars through one of the Italian mafias in the U.S!

Body blow to UN

The basic motive of the Americans in attacking Iraq was always suspect. If it was to remove a tyrannical dictator, there were others far more deserving of that treatment than Saddam. The Americans are actively supporting many of them as indeed they did Saddam earlier when it suited them. The reception, which the coalition forces expected to be accorded in the vanquished country, was not enthusiastic enough to justify their vaunted claims that they were liberating the people from a despot’s tyranny.

The US approach to the Iraq question could be faulted on many counts. The Americans tried to take the UN with them in their campaign. When three permanent members of the Security Council refused to go along with them, the US decided to go it alone nevertheless. Both the US and the UK took the self-righteous stand that they were satisfied with the evidence they had about the delinquencies of the dictatorial regime in Iraq. That evidence was not shared with the lesser members of UN. The UN charter prohibits interferes in the internal affairs of any sovereign country. Thus, the very approach of the US and the UK dealt a body blow to the UN. For more than a decade, sanctions had been imposed on Iraq for possession of WMD’s. Now without having discovered them, or admitting that they were not there, the Americans want the sanctions lifted. Important members of the UN are against such an arbitrary approach. In my article referred to above, I had likened the America behaviour to that of the village tyrant. If the village panchayat did not go along with him, it was removed. The US bypassed the world panchayat (UN), and having got used to it, it shall do so again.

While in many Islamic countries, there was open expression of anger at the attack on Iraq; in other countries, there was a sense of moral outrage at the action. Again, as in the case of the village landlord, some countries thought it expedient to keep quiet, or just to mumble unhappiness, but the resentment against the action was universal.

Motive for Attack

The feeling that the motive for the attack was oil more than any thing else is strengthened by the fact that while priceless heritage in the Iraqi museum was allowed to be plundered and destroyed, adequate action was taken to safeguard the oil wells. That is why now the question being asked all around is: which country next? Syria has already been sufficiently chastened verbally by the victors of Iraq.

The American are not able to overcome the shock of 9/11 and the fall of the twin towers. The myth of its almight and invulnerability was shattered by that incident. An invisible band of terrorists, which cocked a snook at its fortress security, sent the nation into an unprecedented flurry. To eliminate the possibility of such a recurrence, it has vowed to root out terrorism wherever it exists. It is a laudable objective but here too consistency is lacking in its policy. It does not exhibit a uniform concern at the terrorist activity in places like Kashmir. Such an approach does not inspire faith; it generates cynicism.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the bi-polar world of the last century is gone. Earlier, the Soviet Union could counter any move by the US, which threatened to upset the delicate balance of powering today’s uni-polar world where there is only one super- power. The non-aligned movement (NAM), which was born out of the bi-polar situation, has been rendered irrelevant. Earlier, non-alignment meant equidistance from the two poles. Now you are either with one power or you are against it. The very term ‘balance’ implies the existence of two units. In today’s situation, the balance can only mean the US (with its satellites) vs. the rest of the world. Who can be the spokesman of the rest of the world?

Morality in international conduct

While self –interest of nations determines international relations, there is a minimum sense of justice which must be perceived in the external policies and acts of nations. No nation can override the interests of other nations for all times. There is a feeling now that there is no one to counter any move by the US. She can get away with anything. There is a rudimentary sense of equity with which international policies and actions are judged. Today the American might is unchallenged. That however does not mean it can do whatever it likes anywhere. The bomb blast in Saudi Arabia on the eve of the visit of Collin Powell, and later at Casablanca show how many invisible forces are working against the US, and no body knows how and where they will hit.

The American historian, Barbara Tuchman, in her book ‘The March of Folly’ has shown how all wars from the Trojan to Vietnam were acts of folly. At that time they were waged, they were shown to be fully justified by those who initiated them. In retrospect, she shows them as unnecessary and avoidable. It reinforces the old saying attributed to Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and at least to six other statesmen: ‘See my son with how little wisdom the world is governed.’

Noting the emergence of the US as the unchallenged power, many pundits have declared that the 21st Century belongs to America. That is based on too narrow a reading of recent developments, and an insufficient appreciation of historical factors. Today in the global village, political hegemony has to be closely accountable to the Panchayat. As in our masala films, at the end of the day, the landlord–villain is humbled. Jack kills the giant and good sense comes to prevail. What is blinding us today might as well be the last flicker of the flame for the American lamp. The century will belong, not to the almighty America, but to the meek of the world.


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