Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Arrogance of Power

I have been struggling for the last few weeks to put fingers to keyboard in an effort to make some sense of the violent goings on around the globe. Immediately after my last post, numerous bombs went off on trains in Mumbai, India killing hundreds of people. I was filled with rage and anger. Rage at the cowardly bastards that carried out the attacks on unsuspecting innocent people and anger at the fact that the various intelligence assets there in India had not able to crack these plots before they happened. To be totally honest, I spent the next couple of days thinking that if the mainstream Islamic community around the world did not stand up to its' militant clans, the other peoples of the world might actually get it together enough one day to unite against them to indiscriminately wipe them out. The above statement obviously stems from the assumption that the perpetrators of the Mumbai bombings were Muslim extremists, separatists, terrorists, etc... Frankly, it is hard to imagine who else it could be.

Then shortly thereafter, the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah started. Israel too has been the subject of numerous suicide bombings, missile attacks, etc., at the hands of both Hamas from the Palestinian areas around the southern part of Israel and Hezbollah from the north from within Lebanon. Both India and Israel are involved in "low intensity" conflicts mainly originating from outside their borders; the Kashmir territorial dispute festers between India, Pakistan and other interested parties from within Kashmir and Israel and her Arab neighbors have still not been able to reach a lasting peace since the creation of Israel during the Arab Israeli war of 1948-1949. I suggest going to Wikipedia to get an in depth background on both conflicts.

My interest here is to look at how both countries are forced to deal with their individual situations in different ways. From the outset, let me admit that I often find myself jealous of the military superiority that Israel enjoys over its disorganized, badly trained, and ill equipped Arab neighbors. It seems that for every pound of flesh that Hamas or Hezbollah is able to extract from Israel, she is able to extract ten times more. Now I know that that sounds extremely primitive. But I too have seen firsthand the toll that terrorism and religious communalism exacts from a city and a population. I remember being on a train in Bombay that was being pelted with rocks and helped numerous passengers shut their window shutters and helped men keep the train doors shut while Muslim youth tried to board it to attack us in the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 by Hindu fundamentalists. Also, I was on a plane heading to Bombay on March 12, 1993 when 13 bombs went off in the city causing immense carnage and destruction. I will spare you the historical details (look up Bombay Blasts March 1993 in Wikipedia). Suffice it to say that the human toll of all of these events are immense and are always borne by those who have nothing to do with the nonsense that serves as the fountain of hatred from which these events flow.

Unlike Israel, India is constrained by numerous factors. First of all, her arch enemy has nuclear weapons which serves as a major deterrent despite India's advantage over Pakistan in conventional weapons. Secondly, India does not have a major enabler like Israel, namely the United States. India is flanked on her other side by China who has no qualms selling Pakistan advanced weapons and proliferating to it both nuclear and missile technology to keep Indian ambitions in check. And lastly, being a secular republic, she cannot be seen taking a heavy hand against the minority Muslim population and thereby tarnishing her secular credentials. This is despite the fact that she has the second largest Muslim population of any country save Indonesia; some of whom serve as aiders and abettors of extremists that come from outside of the country and foment trouble at the slightest provocation. These troublemakers of course do not appreciate that they have much more freedom and representation in India than they do in the most moderate of Islamic countries.

India has often threatened to use the doctrine of "hot pursuit" which is basically following the links back to where the terrorists come from - mainly from across the disputed Kashmir border - and destroying them and their sponsors. However, for the most part she has not carried through. I think that often leads to the impression of her being a "soft state". However, after seeing the Israeli response to the latest incursions by Hezbollah, I'm not so sure that her patience is not the more prudent course.

Although I completely understand and accept the notion that Israel has the right to defend herself; I do not see how destroying the infrastructure of Lebanon and killing so many civilians has helped her achieve more security. There is definitely no changing the hearts of those whom are hell bent on destroying her and even question the right of this Jewish state to exist. The greater disservice she has done to herself is to fall into the same misguided trap that America has fallen into. In trying to further the Bush doctrine of destroying your enemies before they destroy you, she has only emboldened her enemies and united those - the various Arab nations who are always at odds which each other- that are, at the best of times, completely suspicious of each other.

America also did Israel a great disservice. Instead of playing the wiser friend and convincing her to negotiate a quick cease fire and then work for a political solution to the pressing concerns of both sides, the powers that be in Washington were hopeful that Israel would deal a quick and decisive blow to Hezbollah and therefore diminish Iran's growing influence over the region. When Israel's "smart" weapons did not prove to be smart enough to avoid killing scores of innocents, even the American press which is blatantly pro Israel could not keep itself from openly questioning Israel's tactics and motives. When Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice coldly labeled wanton destruction of life and property by Israeli missiles as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East", she could not have known that Hezbollah would put up such fierce resistance. In the face of rising Arab unity and revulsion from around the globe to the images coming out of Lebanon, the US administration could do nothing but allow a totally unsatisfactory UN resolution to be born that neither disarms Hezbollah, leaves Israeli troops inside Lebanon currently, and still provides no clear deadline or vision as to when a robust international peacekeeping force will actually be deployed there. Meanwhile, Hezbollah, having survived the wrath of the vaunted Israeli Defense Forces, will now begin the task of rebuilding Lebanon with Iranian money, further entrenching itself in Lebanese society and winning the good will of the people.

What did Israel gain from this misadventure. Nothing. The cease fire does not even call for the mandatory return of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped and held captive by Hezbollah; the event that served as the catalyst for the beginning of this conflict. Hopefully, further negotiations between the parties and their various puppet masters will lead to a more permanent peace, but the history of this region and the quality of leadership in the world exhibited today do not give cause for optimism.

You may ask, "What course would you recommend"? I will take my guidance from Senator J. William Fulbright and his writings in his book The Arrogance of Power and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1966.

The attitude above all others which I feel sure is no longer valid is the arrogance of power, the tendency of great nations to equate power with virtue and major responsibilities with a universal mission...

The cause of our difficulties ... is not a deficiency of power but an excess of the wrong kind of power which results in a feeling of impotence when it fails to achieve its desired ends...

Fulbright surmises that the best that America (I would expand that to all peace loving and democratic nations) can do is to lead by example. Instead of forcing our ideals on others, we should provide a good example for other nations to follow when they are ready and in a form that conforms to their cultural values. Without getting too far away from the current discussion, I would propose that the above ideal as the only prudent course for any great power, whether they be a global power, like the US, or a regional power like Israel, or a budding power like India.

In summary, I believe that Israel was a greater threat to it's enemies when they were in awe of her and respected her than after this current war. That is not to say she should not have defended herself against Hezbollah. But in broadening the conflict and in trying to change the course of history by upping the ante in this conflict she has not gained any greater sense of lasting security. And this should serve as a lesson for India as well. Although grand terrorist acts like those of the Mumbai train blasts may inflame our passions, the response should always be fierce against the proven perpetrators but within the confines of what civilised societies have accepted as self defense. Using these situations as an excuse to "go on offense" and solve long standing issues outside of political processes can only lead to an ultimate mutual destruction.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a couple of things:

1. The war between Israel and her neighbors will be over when the world as we know it ends. Not before.

2. I never understood the close alliances between the US & Pakistan and the Russians & India. Especially the latter. After all, you have a hyper-religious country and one that forcibly put down anything other than Communism until Reagan came along.

3. I am sick and tired of the cancer that is Muslim terrorism against the world. It's time for the moderate Muslims to come out in force and protest against those that have cast such shame on their religion. Of course, those who come out to protest would probably be put on some hit list created by some Mullah in Iran. Speaking of which, how many years did Rushdie have to hide?

Thursday, August 17, 2006  
Blogger MyView said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. I wholeheartedly agree with you on points 1 & especially 3. Fundamentalism in any religion and fascism in any society is a cancer that feeds on the insecurities inherent in that community and provides as its solution the destruction of the other more successful one. The true failings of modern Islamic populations is in their inability to provide any hope for a bright future to their youth. In a world coming closer and closer together because of the wonders of modern technology, transport, education; they seem to be intentionally wanting to withdraw from it. My hope is that those who truly love Islam and believe it to be a peace loving faith rescue their societies from its more radical and nihilistic elements.

On Rushdie, I believe he was in hiding for over a decade. Read "Midnights Children" & "Shame". They are excellent early works of his.

Your second question deserves a detailed answer that I will not attempt here. Suffice it so say that most political alliances are based on some mutual need and countries that do not seem likely to be allies are driven together by historical circumstances. You are right about India being a great melting pot of religions; however, one of it's first leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru, was not a religious man and was a commited secularist. It was not communism that attracted him so much as the social and economic justice of socialism. He thought socialism was the perfect answer for India's class and caste concious population and wanted more econimc parity between rich and poor, landed and landless.

Anyway, you have given me a reason to write about this in the future, but I want to get my facts and history straight.

Thanks again for the interest!

Thursday, August 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you that America did disservice to the Israel. But you know what, America is always like that. There are so many examples to prove that statement. And you seem like a knowledgeable person, you should know that.
Tell me why there is a term Anti-American in the Arab world? There got to be something that America must have done in past to them (I am currently in search of this question). They are not born terrorist. I believe America is just paying for her sins.
American politicians are not just putting their country in danger instead they are compromising other nation's safety and security. Now a days terrorists doing explosions to all-american allies and, I believe, attacks in India are due to that.
I think America wants to do what British did in past. Make other countries fight and take all the benefits. For example; Oil from the Middle East.
I am sure this comment makes of angry, if you are American, but believe me I am not anti-American, I am just concerned. I feel bad for innocent American people as well as people around the world that are dying for no good reason.
And America is the only country, in this era, which can bring the changes.
GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll tell you why there is anti-American sentiment in the Middle East--America's support of Israel. You see, America actually beleives that that Israel has the right to existe, the right not to be pushed into the sea as her Arab neighbors crave. For this, America has to suffer at the hands of these extremeist thugs who would only allow full freedom to Muslims. I'll tell you what---I'd much rather live in Israel than in any Arab country where, if you are not a Muslim, you are not allowed to drive, to worship, etc.

America is the best place on the face of the earth. America allows people to have discourse on their beliefs. You are not going to be placed on some hit list because you want to be a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, or an aetheist. America's only crime is that we will not allow a race of people to become exterminated as the Germans tried in WWII. The biggest mistake that George W. made is that he honestly believes that everyone in the Middle East wants to be free---extremists only want freedom for other Muslims. They will never make peace with non-Muslim countries or anyone who is a professing Christian, Jew, etc. Watch what happens and you'll see this to be case eve more so than it already is.

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Blogger MyView said...

Thanks for the follow on comments above...

Like I said in in my reply to the first comment to this post, alliances between countries are often made because of some outstanding need or confluence of interest and not because those nations are natural allies.

Truth be told, the reason for the Taliban in Afghanistan and the extremism one finds in the tribal areas of Pakistan is a direct result of America using Pakistan as its proxy in fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA armed whomever was willing to carry a machune gun and a grenade launcher in Pakistan to bleed the Russians out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, they made no effort to recollect those arms nor did our government demand any accountability from various Pakistani governments for those weapons. We got the short term results we wanted, but unknowingly sowed the seeds of what led to the 9-11 attacks. India was warning Washington for years about how many of the militants that the CIA helped create for one purpose, were now finding there way into Kashmir as terrorists. Washington turned a deaf ear for decades as the Taliban became more and more powerful over the years and finally ruined Afghanistan. Remember, even then we were fighting to beat the Soviets, not save Afghanistan. The Pakistanis encouraged the Taliban and even the religious schools - madrassas -that sprung up in Pakistan to supply a constant stream of misquided youth to these radical movements. Now it was Pakistan who was able to bleed its arch rival, India.

Unfortunately, we are forever destined to make the same mistakes over and over. I worry that America is once again bored with Afghanistan and we will snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory there because of our short term attention spans.

To the second reader that left a comment, I too love America and the ideals that she stands for. However, please do not make the mistake of looking at our history through rose tinted glasses. What would you call the fate that fell to the native populations of this land? Would you not call that a genocide of sorts?

Maybe you would say that that was a long time ago and today things are different. Then I would ask you to consider that the ideals we so love our country for today were actually formalized and documented over two hundred years ago. Despite this our nation did disservice to her founding fathers by negating these ideals in her dealings with her own native peoples as well as the negroes. If we, being such a great nation, were capable of such activity, then how can we neccesarily hold other nations not founded on such lofty ideals to higher standards.

As Matthew says in the Bible:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course America has made mistakes and has problems here. America is far away from being perfect, but that does not mean that we can turn a blind eye to things that are happening today. Should we stand by and let madmen destroy an entire race of people simply because they want to??

I think that you have to deal with the big problems first because no one can deal with every problem in the same timeframe. No one has the resources to do that. During the Communist era, Soviet Communism was the biggest threat. And Reagan dealt with them... for the time being.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous Indigo Bubbles said...

The Bush administration has an 'extremist' view on many things - i.e., you're with us or you're against us. So, when Israel attacks Lebanon, US feels obligated to support regardless of the context or circumstance. So, like you said, rather than being a friend who pulls back the reins, US is just nodding, being a 'yes' man behind them. It's crazy because many Americans who may support Israeli rights and issues are now saying, this is not what we stand for.

Also, US in Iraq has made it "legimate" to blow up a house of "insurgents". So, when Israel bombs a building of innocents, they can claim they targetted Hezbollah affiliates to that location.

Sunday, August 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can't say i understand your post - i'm not intellectual enough to understand Isreal and all of it's complexities - but i am gravitated to your title. I think the Arrogance of Power exists in nations, in people, in every living breathing thing...Nations are arrogant and the deadly toll is thousands of innocent people...People are arrogant and the toll is we lose ourselves.

Keep writing...you can be arrogant about the fact that you're a good writer :)

Saturday, September 02, 2006  

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