Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Long War of the 21st Century

(Speech by James Woolsey at Commonwealth Club on July 21)

It is little hard not to get impressed by the analytical and comprehensive speech given by Mr. James Woolsey (former CIA Director) at Commonwealth Club on July 21. Substantial early part of the speech attempts to put the context on the war on terrorism and subtle, but rightly distinguished, strains of different threads of this whole gamut of problem set. However, quite erudite the speech is; it does smack smell of the worldview of “a power monk” from Washington. In the end one does wonder how small is the distance between a fanatic cleric running a Madrassa and a Washington Power Monk.

The first problem one comes across with Woolsey’s analysis is of postulating radical Islamic movement of Al Qaeda type regarding USA, and the USA State, as the primary hindrance in the existence of Islamic society based on their world view. Mr. Woolsey compares this assumption of the Al Qaeda with Hitler regarding USA as the final barrier for the Thousand Year Reich. Let us keep aside the historical accuracy of this proposition (because Hitler was also obsessed with the Russian/Soviet power which in the end as well undid the Third Reich) and go ahead with Mr. Woolsey’s assertion about Hitler and the Thousand Year Reich. If so, it becomes apparent then that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are looking to rule the whole world and they are simply not ready to accept the existence of other ways of life and civilization. Do we have the conclusive proof of that? Let us not confuse attacks of 9/11 with the ambition to rule the world of the order of Hitler. Do Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have this ambition? Just because they have declared war on USA does not mean we can attribute their motives to rule the world. Or is it because they come in between the covert program of “Washington Power Monks” like Mr. Woolsey to continue to dominate the world affairs in the American ways?

The truth is Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are saying that USA and corrupt Arab Rulers are disturbing a way of life which these radical Islamists want to practice in their own lands. If one thinks harder, one will realize that in the end it is less important whether this argument of these extremists holds any water or not; than some reflection on the part of USA to check and verify whether indeed that is the case. Now the question is do we ever have that kind of debate in American Politics where we inspect and evaluate whether the American Foreign Policy is indeed not meddling in the affairs of these conservative and traditional societies or at least groups who want to stay that way – rightly or wrongly? American soldiers on Saudi Peninsula – are they really required? It is indeed a right step that Defense Secretary Mr. Donald Rumsfeld proposed to reduce the American military presence there and there is no reason for America to be apologetic. It is a smart move and who cares whether it panders Bin Laden or not. Our goals and our lives are much more precious than anyone’s ego-trip whether it is Bin Laden or President Bush.

So why America cannot think of a way of life where America bothers least these societies and let them resolve their own problems and issues? Oil dependence. Well, America can buy less oil from these countries and more from other countries. It has been doing that which proves it is possible to do so along this path. So should we not accelerate that? I am not talking here life changing Green Way of Life – non-oil environment friendly green economy. Let us leave that discussion for some other time. I am simply saying that America can get away from any dependence on Arab oil in specific.

The other part of the argument from Bin Laden and the company is American support to all these corrupt rulers in the Arab world. If America cares less about that mess, it is better. The situation is America lands up backing some not so authentic rulers in these parts of the world (some would say rather all parts of the world due the over enthusiastic Washington Power Monks of Mr. Woolsey type - that is a different matter) for the so-called reasons of “real politick” and botches their internal dynamics. Is it worth all this trouble? Or just because Bin Laden asks USA not to meddle into their affairs means it becomes all the worth to put the American prestige behind precisely doing that! Imagine in 1863 if other countries and societies would have meddled in the American Civil War. I doubt America would have taken it lightly. Same should apply to other countries too. America should be always advocating democratic principles and adhere to that agenda in it’s foreign policy but that does not have to descend into meddling in internal affairs of other counties. One wonders whether justification for all such meddling comes from the Washington Power Monks.

The final part of the argument from Bin Laden and the company is about the American Foreign Policy in the Middle East Conflict. Mr. Woolsey has rightly pointed that American Foreign Policy – with bipartisan support – have resulted in creating the impression successfully that America sides with Isreal and does not care about Arab societies. So does it mean we ignore any reevaluation of this policy just because Bin Laden says so? This is the second failure of Mr. Woolsey’s analysis. He acknowledges that the American Middle East Foreign Policy is a failure but does not take the other logical half – that changing that policy is the core part of the solution and the major step towards the war on Islamic Terrorism. Why this coyness on the part of Mr. Woolsey? He is right to say that policy has been crafted over the years with the bipartisan contributions. But does some one need to point out the esteemed contributions from CIA as well over all these years, the contributions of which Mr. Woolsey was the proud participant at the highest level? Or is it because this being particularly not so glorious part of CIA’s contribution to the world peace, Mr. Woolsey avoids to discuss it? It is indeed disappointing, and in the end dishonest too, that Mr. Woolsey drills quite deep into the problem with the help of logic and analysis but just stops short when it would enable the USA Power Establishment to embark upon the real solution.

Another instance of Mr. Woolsey not elaborating on his own right thoughts is that at some point in the speech Mr. Woolsey signals out correctly that this war of USA will be long because USA has been caught in the midst of a civil war within Islam? Mr. Woolsey what would you like a sane person do in that situation – not to complicate it further by taking sides overtly and participating in that fight. You want to give “space” to the players themselves instead of hogging limelight on your own. Does that mean if some one of the fight hits the innocent bystanders unnecessarily (the 9/11 attacks) you still ignore that? No, you do take all the remedial solutions for that – in this case clinically finishing Bin Laden. But not leaving that job half finished (anyone remembers Afghan war of 2001 – 2002 and Tora Bora); and run after some hypothetical participants of Islamic civil war (Saddam Hussein) with the pretext that “but we are proactively eliminating a future attacker on USA”. Mr. Woolsey, why this failure to analyze and debate the appropriate course of action when the situation dignosed is of “civil war among Arab societies”? What is the use of these Washington Power Monks when they do no tell America what is really important and crucial? I thought the deal of the American people with these power monks has been American people to tolerate the “power trips” of these Washington Power Monks in return of getting precise, actionable policy and successful execution of the same. May be America has relied too much on the “slam dunk” arguments of these Power Monks.

One example of how the meddling into others affairs happen for those who play such power games is Mr. Woolsey’s reference to Arab societies as “try to run a decent society where a mother can’t even read to her children…”. Mr. Woolsey you are right to the point when you mean that a large number of Arab mothers cannot read. But jumping from there to the inability to run a decent society – that is the leap I guess we have been talking all these centuries which is called as “applying Western standards to make judgments about other societies”. As I read History, British Parliamentarians and East India Company officials were oozing with the descriptions of how barbarian Hindu way of life had been in the 19th century. If you read History, you will find that it was all inconsequential and in many ways counter productive in the end. It is hard to escape the strong motivation behind such characterization in the British Parliament apart from the pure power lust of the British Empire to rule India. In the end it required the truly revolutionary social reformer like Rajaram Mohan Roy to stop the barbaric practice of “sati” (burning the widow alive along with the corpse of the husband). What does the American History show? America solved on it’s own the issues of slavery and Civil war. It did not need outside prompting. It is better that it did not happen. It is better in the long run to let people solve their problems on their own rather than any external intervention. Is it so hard to learn these lessons? The history of British Empire is full of pitfalls of trying to judge other societies on the criteria of Western Civilization. Mr. Woolsey what we need is the “restrain” from the Washington Power Establishment to avoid committing the same mistakes of History.

This does not mean justification of characterization of American family as incest infected dysfunctional family system as done on Saudi Government’s official web site. That needs to be raised to their Government and America should explore all legal and rightful approaches to ask the Saudi Government to remove that. That is the part of this war and that is why it is the war of long haul. This war is in the end cultural conflict and we do not want America to commit the mistake of imposing a cultural hegemony. It is na├»ve to underestimate what is already imposed on the world via Hollywood and other cultural exports of America. We do not need to supplement these exports with guns and military imposed orders. Let the Commerce determine what rest of the world wants to consume of America at their pace, not some kind of drunken foreign policy of USA to dictate terms for the world. This being a cultural conflict and there being internal turmoil within many societies of the world; this war is long. This war is long because the American Foreign Policy takes the detours of removing Saddam Hussein and looses the focus on Bin Laden. This war will be for a long haul because the American Forces are institutionalized in a mold where they can only “see” nation state enemies. It will be long to the extent American Forces fail to crystallize a laser like focus on the enemy which is not manifested in the traditional nation state structure. This war will be further elongated because America does not show the willingness to avoid falling into the traps of “imperial ambitions”. And in the end one wonders whether this war will be kept festering for long because that is one hell of a politically cheap way (but expensive to common man in wealth and life) to extend the maniac grip of Washington Power Monks like Mr. Woolsey, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Mr. Dick Cheney and the self declared war time President Mr. George W. Bush. We hope it is not.

August 29, 2004.

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