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After `shock and awe'

C. RAMMANOHAR REDDY

REUTERS

India seems to prefer "quiet diplomacy" to "condemnation".

THE defeat in the World Cup finals has mercifully ended the cricket hysteria. There is now public space to be a little more aware of the more important public issues. The harsh world outside has very quickly made its intrusion. The mass killings near Srinagar have brought the Kashmir imbroglio back to us. Then there is the United States war on Iraq, the 21st Century version of 19th Century gunboat diplomacy which threatens to usher in a new era in international relations. But this will not be a world free of terror, as the Washington caucus around George Bush claims in false justification of the war. It will be instead a world in which the U.S. will do as it pleases and wherever in the world it wants to throw its weight around — with dangerous consequences to its own and the world's security. The significance of this new war of the U.S. seems to be lost on us in India. Barring the demonstrations organised by the Left parties and a few citizen groups, there has been a strange silence before and even during the war. Only now when the full import of what the U.S. is doing have a few other political parties woken up. Our Prime Minister, of course, prefers "quiet diplomacy" against "condemnation" which he calls ineffective "posturing". A simpler description of the official Indian position would be kow-towing to the U.S. While not showing any spine is a trait that Indian officialdom is often quick to display, our grand thinkers have been busy providing the intellectual rationale for this acquiescence to the invasion of Iraq. They think (hope) that after Iraq, the U.S. will organise "a regime change" in Pakistan. Which country will follow? Iran? Or India? The well-known warning "Of you the story is told" is one our government and self-serving intellectuals are not aware of as they look away from the unfolding horror in Iraq.

If the 1991 Gulf war brought the battlefield to the TV screens, the U.S. aggression of 2003 has done the reverse. It has taken the video game to the battlefield. The language of this war is the language of adolescents as they play video games. "A war unlike any other in history," says a U.S. General; "awesome display of firepower," says a reporter, the objective is to get "Saddam's head", says a commentator. Such words repeated ad nauseum are the words of deadened humans. Barring a few exceptions (mainly on the internet) there was, mid-week, no other news because the U.S. and British media does not care for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, the hospitals crowded with the victims of "precision bombing" and the unfolding humanitarian crisis. The war may be "over" sooner or later, but the long-term consequences will haunt the world and the U.S. for a long time. The puppets who will be installed in government in Iraq will need U.S. support for years. (Close to 18 months after the "victory" in Afghanistan, it is common knowledge that the present government cannot stand on its own). This is fertile ground for Turkey in the north to covet parts of Iraq and so too Iran to the west. The disregard that the U.S. has shown to the principles that have guided international relations for more than half a century will stir a cauldron that will breed hundreds of Osamas. These will be the wages of gunboat diplomacy.

One does not have to be "a supporter" of Saddam Hussein to realise the short-sightedness of U.S. policy and how this war is going to worsen global insecurity. Only Washington does not remember that it was the U.S. which first armed Mr. Saddam Hussein. It was Washington which in 1979 encouraged Mr. Saddam Hussein to invade the post-Shah Iran. It was Washington which sent mixed signals to Iraq as it prepared to invade Kuwait in 1990. And it is Washington that has protected the biggest obstacle to peace in West Asia — Israel.

What is amazing is that after displaying so much opportunism and unleashing such violence in the world, Americans are genuinely surprised that they are intensely disliked everywhere. The citizens of the world may want to see Hollywood films, wear Levis, drink Coca-Cola and even migrate to the U.S. But that does not prevent them from being resentful of U.S. swagger. Unfortunately, the brazenness of the U.S. aggression on the people of Iraq tells us that we will have to wait for the (eventual) decline of U.S. power before the world becomes a safer place.

E-mail the writer at crr100@india.com

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