The worldwide protests against war last month underlined the mood of the people almost everywhere. This underlined the repulsion that people feel for war. But a war is going to come anyhow, it is commonly realised. That is the given part of the situation. It might be postponed for a while because of the plethora of political reasons why politicians cannot rush into Iraq war. Yet the forces that have already been released are unlikely to be able to restrain the main Anglo-Saxon politicians from actually starting the war. It is a tug of war between political compulsions that restrain and other forces that are propelling them to decide on starting a war. Meanwhile the people have shown that they are against the war and what it might imply. The people are uncertain about what really is happening in the American policy-making apparatus where it is leading the world.
There are three major crises areas that have to be taken note of in particular. The first one concerns the UN and the world order in which we are living. Over a longish period people have wanted and virtually decreed that the world should not be a jungle where the principle of might is right should rule. In deference to the widespread popular feeling in what then was called the civilised world, the major powers of the end of the First World War founded the League of Nations and chose Geneva to be its Headquarters because it was a major city of a truly neutral country, Switzerland. It was intended to regulate the world in accordance with International Law and the nations hopefully thought, that they were bound to obey its verdict. In the event, what happened was that the great powers began manipulating it and it was commonly realised that it was no more than an instrument in the hands of France and Britain, the two superpowers of the day. Then came Japan’s action in Korea and Mussolini’s war on Abysinia despite the League of Nations, in fact defying it. Mussolini’s attack on Abysinia in 1935 rang the deathknell of League of Nations. After that it was only a matter of time that the League would fade away. Few noticed its passing away just as the Second World War was starting. The UNO was brought into being in 1945 with great fanfare and hopes. It was done in pursuance of Atlantic Charter and other instruments of the Allied Powers. People of the world were weary of the war even after the First World War. Which is why League of Nations was founded. The people after the Second World were even more disgusted with what a major war does. The destruction and deaths wrought by Second World War were a terrible experience for mankind.
The determination of the common people to see the world governed by some law, International Law, so that wars do not take place was palpable. But alas! the hopes were dupes. One reason why the sentiment behind the UN was so strong was the advent of the Atomic Bomb. The destruction wrought by the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki shocked the whole world out of complacency. Which is why the UN was given a supposedly strong mandate to maintain the world order and ensure collective security. The original Charter envisaged a UN’s own security force to enforce its will. Alas! that force never came into being nor was the UN able to ward off the influences of major powers. Its role was, from the very beginning, paralysed for the most part, by the cold war that began in 1946. It remained more or less moribund on most matters of common concern because the five major UN powers, the permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers, had to agree before everything that the UN does. Thus the UN did a great deal of good work where there was no controversy. It has also done invaluable work through its specialised agencies for health, food, culture and so forth. These technical agencies are still doing excellent work and the world cannot do without them. Look at the International Court of Justice that was taken from the League of Nations or the new Court for crimes of international nature. Some agencies were taken over and adopted as a UN institution. Similarly the many UN institutions are sure to survive though not necessarily the UN itself. The secret of UN’s ineffectiveness was that before acting five major powers had to agree on all major actions. Few such could take place because on most occasions the two superpowers of the time, the US and the Soviet Union, did not agree on any matter of real importance. It was hoped that after the demise of Soviet Union at the end of 1980s, the UN will probably now flourish and realise the potential there was implicit in it of acting as a guardian of the weak and the restrainer of the strong. That however has proved to be a vain hope. What actually happened was that the Americans, once free of the restraint imposed by Soviet Union, began to act unilaterally in their own interest. The UN was quickly turned into a handmaiden of the US. Independent existence of the UN in fact came to an end at the end of the cold war itself. After that it has been an instrument in the hands of the US for the most part, except in the year 2002-03.
There has been a revolt of sorts among the quasi-great powers against the US overlordship. They saw the US reordering the world in its own interest. The US leadership became, over time, more or less intolerable to other major powers like China, Russia, France and Germany. Germans have for the most part been more anti-war and have recently become more blunt in asserting their views. The French are quite determined but remained verbally flexible. The Britain has, as has become usual, sides with the US on every major issue and seems likely to go on doing so. It is almost a satellite of the US. The events of February 2003 have shown that the British public opinion too is overwhelmingly against the possible Iraq war while the British government is overwhelmingly in favour of it. That underlines the contradiction within the major powers of the day. What the worldwide demonstrations against war on February 15, 2003 have demonstrated is a strong rejection of the US leadership of the world. It is no longer acceptable to most people. But the UN is being exploited by the US for its own purposes to provide a fig leaf of justification for waging war on Iraq.
The manner in which the US government has treated the UN on the question of Iraq has been telltale. Just as the American top men arm-twisted Pakistan into supporting the US after 9/11, the UN is being told that it should live up to the expectations of the US-British axis or else it will be made history. Let us recognise that it is being threatened with its own death if it does not toe the line of the US. The US has been manipulating the UN machinery successfully for a decade. But in the case of Iraq things have come to a head and most people are in a mood to defy the US. This international mood is articulated far more clearly in Europe than elsewhere. The Germans have said that their country shall not take part in any war whether the UN sanctions it or it does not. France says that if and when UN sanctions war, France might reconsider its opposition. But for the present it continues to be dead set against a war. There is a talk of a possible French veto, though some do not think that French will go to that extent. Most Europeans want the UN procedures to take their own course and let the UN inspectors continue as far as possible. Peaceful resolution of the Crisis over Iraq is the best way out. Later the European Union became sharply divided after the US lobbying had done its work on the newly approved members of the EU. Three European governments are in any case notable supporters of the US: Italy, Britain and Spain, though their people on the whole remain anti-war. The division within the Europe has underlined the fact that most of the opponents of war, some governments enjoy popular support while the governments in Italy and Spain are strongly supporting the US government against popular sentiment, especially in Italy and Spain. At length, the EU did paper over both in the NATO — where too a similar sharp divide had appeared — and over its own differences through skillfully composing the political position. It is a diplomatic gimmick. For, basic differences between them remain unresolved. No one is really happy with the American drive to start a war in Iraq. But they do want to retain their unity and also want nothing more than giving some more time to the UN so that political processes might be able to postpone the eventual clash. For the Europeans, what is at risk is their own unity and the future of European Union itself. Many suspect that US lobbying for support might undermine EU’s homogeneity and unity. It is to be seen whether the exigencies of supporting the US for the time being is the stronger motivation than the necessity of keeping the EU together? For the present, the positions of the Franco-German governments remain closely linked and their leadership of the EU is unlikely be trifled with. But that is a separate matter. But what we are concerned here is the threat that the UN has gone the way of the League of Nations. A few think that it can possibly be salvaged. But the US is far too determined to have its own way, the UN or no UN. That attitude is daily undermining the prestige and effectiveness of the UN.
The second major crisis concerns Iraq. A lot of things are being said. Saddam Hussain the Iraqi dictator, is an obnoxious political phenomenon; his oppression of its own people has been horrible. He has wantonly attacked two neighbours; Iran and Kuwait. He has used chemical weapons against his own people as well as against Iranians. It is thought to be manufacturing mass destruction weapons of all kinds, including nuclear. Although there is no infrastructure for manufacturing nuclear weaponry, the US continues to accuse the Iraqis of building some kind of a dirty weapon out of smuggled or stolen fissile material or semi nuclear weapons from fertilisers. The rest of the world does not quite see the point. They notice that Saddam Hussain is not the only oppressive dictator in the world; the latter is full of fellows who oppress their people, though few has yet used their mass destruction weapons against their own people and not many have had occasion to mount invasion of neighbours. But in inflicting oppression and being a politically evil phenomenon, Saddam has severe competition. The question occurs and recurs: why is America so hell bent on Saddam Hussain, though he is accused of having violated or ignored UN Security Council resolutions. Here again Iraq is not alone. No less than 34 resolutions of UN Security Council and Assembly have been violated by Israel. Why Iraq is chosen for this distinction? No one is satisfied with the proffered explanations. This is a fact of life that has to be admitted that no sane thinking person has accepted the arguments given by the Bush government and Mr. Blair and his government. Their case is palpably partial and flawed. Insofar as they accuse Saddam Hussain of various evil things, the point is well taken. But the counter question is immediately asked: Why Iraq and why not others? Why now and why these things were not noticed before? There is no rational reason why Iraq should be the first to be chosen for chastisement. But the fact is that he has to be punished. Few will mourn the passing of Saddam Hussain from the scene, whether politically or physically. But there has to be some reason and consistency. If being a bad dictator is the reason for his being deposed, then there are many others and there should be some criterion about who is to be the first. Similarly, on all other matters. Even nuclear ambitions of Saddam Hussain cannot be a ground for being singled out. India, Pakistan and Israel have also nuclear weapons. There is North Korea which is threatening to build a Bomb and has expelled UN inspectors. There the US is content with using diplomacy to the Crisis. Why not the same diplomatic approach be applied in the case of Iraq? This forces the people to look for the real aim.
The real aims are said to be three: one is oil. Saddam sits on an Iraq underneath which is world’s second largest oil reservoir. The official American mouths are watering and want to get hold of it. Which is why Saddam Hussain is the first priority. They would attack, defeat, depose or kill him. After that they propose to appoint an American General as the Martial Law Administrator. The whole question of oil or whatever happens to it during the war has to be tackled by an Iraqi military regime run by an American General. He is bound to hold that all the old agreements that Saddam had signed with Russia, France and others stand cancelled and need to be renegotiated. In the re-negotiations he is bound to favour the American oil corporations. The top men of the American administration, it is to be noted, are linked to the oil industry of America. All their fortunes have been made in that field. For them, oil is where their heart is. This is however not the only, or may be not even the main, reason why America is so fixated on Iraq.
The second reason is said to be Israel. The only Middle Eastern powers that posed any threat to Israel were two: one and the primary one was Iraq and the second is Iran. Destruction of Saddam Hussain’s regime in Iraq will relieve Israel of its major worry. What makes Saddam Hussain the overarching threat to Israel, is the fact he is the man who bankrolls the Intefada: all the families of those who die or get maimed get support from Iraq. Removal of Iraq will remove a big thorn from the side of Israel. After Iraq, Israel may deal with the Palestinian resistance in the way the Americans cleared their continent from the Red Indians, though perhaps through outright genocide. The world is aghast. The Israelis have flouted the UN resolutions to their heart’s satisfaction. The Americans have consistently sided with the Israelis. Mr. Bush has even called Mr. Arial Sharon a ‘man of peace’. The man who was the butcher of the Palestinians way back in the early 1980s in the famous case of Sabra and Shatila killings and was adjudged as a wanton killer by an Israeli judicial commission. Such a man was called ‘man of peace’ by George W. Bush, who himself seems to be a man of war. Remember what Mr. Bush had said something about the “axis of evil” in which were included Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The American war aims have travelled a long distance from the human rights violations by Saddam Hussain to his ambitions of making and stockpiling WMDs and back again to his evil nature vis-a-vis his own people and human rights record. Making Israel supreme is of course the obvious conclusion that emerges from the destruction of Saddam Hussain’s regime. The Americans have also owned up to another war aim: To re-draw the map of Middle East to make Israel totally supreme so that it can do it over the whole region. Remember the American press has suddenly remembered that the Saudi family is also an un-representative and backward regime. Its human rights record is not really good. Saudi royal family is portrayed as a wasteful phenomenon. They finance terrorists all over the world. And so forth. A hint is available that the Americans are going to give the same treatment to the House of Saud, in one way or another, that they propose to inflict on Iraq. Which, in this case, means regime change. Regime change may certainly be a good proposition for the Middle Eastern autocracies. But the question is who is to do it and how. It is not the prerogative of the US to do so. It is for the people of the country to assert themselves. When and if they do, a regime change will be legitimate. America’s doing that will be illegitimate and unacceptable to any civilised person. Foreigners rushing in and changing regimes is something that does not seem to be reasonable or good anywhere. It is an evil to be fought against because outsiders would tend to do such things are apt to benefit themselves at the expense of victims. Moreover, autocracies need to be replaced with democracies that the concerned people make by their own effort and for their own benefit. Foreigners have to be kept out.
Vis-é-vis changing the map of the ME is a further indication. This would be a big step in the direction of establishing a worldwide Empire of a new type. Americans are already in Pakistan and Afghanistan militarily. India has supported them to the hilt. They have advance military bases in Central Asia. Given the American initiative in withdrawing from the agreement that Clinton had made in 1993, they have opened a new front in North Korea. It may be that they do not intend to wage an early war with North Korea because North Korea is not Iraq. And also the ravages of 1950s war in Korea should still be fresh in the memory of the American policy-makers. They would do not want to be caught in the quick–sands of the Asian landmass. And from where withdrawal will be as difficult and inglorious as from Vietnam in 1975. But the intent to look forward to some such thing is there. In fact it seems to be far more nefarious. They have all but themselves forced North Korean regime to act in a desperate manner. Where was the call to stop the fuel supplies that Clinton had promised and began? In the event, North Korea gave as good as it got. It expelled the UN inspectors; it tore up its agreement with the IAEA; it restarted its only nuclear reactor; it said that it will resume its nuclear weapons programme; and shall build the Bomb. Later it said that it will even tear up armistice agreement of 1953; will then be in a state of war with America. That immediately involves China. In any case, China is apprehensive of the US, in all senses of the term. It is doubtful whether the nuclearisation of North Korea is not what the US intended. It will anyway be a big cat among so many pigeons. It may be a well thought out scheme for war between others. The idea may be to dominate the Asian continent after that war among Asians in a manner that great Emperors used to cause in the periphery of their Empire. North Korean mini-deterrent would alarm a whole lot of others in Asia. Primacy goes to Japan about which it is now thought that it will follow suit and soon become a nuclear power of some magnitude. Taiwan would probably also be tempted to do so. Japan’s going nuclear is sure to frighten China and the tensions would quickly rise mountain high. Chinese might be tempted to settle their scores with Taiwan and side with the North Korea. Siding with North Koreans may be far more natural and urgent for Chinese than re-uniting with Taiwan. A great disorder would ensue, with many tensions all around. The Americans being present in the areas with their own overwhelming military power would try to be the arbiters in that post-war era. It would manage the various deals. Anyway, some American writers and thinkers are already calling it an American Empire, an American Century, a wholly new Roman Empire with Washington as the new Rome.
Given these major changes in the world situation, especially the near or virtual collapse of NATO and of Europe’s dependence on America, disunity in EU over America, in conjunction with the Northeast Asian crisis, it would seem that the post 1945 world order is now in the process of total disruption. Much of it had already undergone a basic transformation with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now it is on the verge of utter demise. What follows may or may not be an American Empire or Century. What will it be is uncertain, except the fact that the USA will continue to be a superpower with a relatively weak economic base and the other powers will continue to be militarily weak but with relatively stronger economic bases. The UN has in fact gone the way of the League of Nations. What might survive is its specialised agencies. But the present Security Council with its historic functions of enforcing collective security and ensuring a peaceful world is no longer viable. It does not deserve to survive. What can be foreseen in the immediate future is a growing disorder rather than any order. Should Japan decide to rearm itself and become a nuclear power, all bets will be off because other major powers, hitherto less powerful than others, would also be tempted to go their separate national ways. What might be feared is that it may amount to a descent into 1930s like situation.