Commerce, Conquest and Colonization
By Dr. S.M. Rahman
USA, viewed dispassionately, was a beacon of hope for the oppressed world. Its great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, whom President Obama identifies with, was a people-oriented statesman, whose relentless struggle to eliminate the menace of racial discrimination is indeed quite laudable. The black leader Martin Luther King Jr., with a remarkable gift of oration, pursued Lincoln’s mission to its fruitful accomplishment and Obama’s entry into the White House is a testimony to the success of integrational paradigm to lend resilience to the domestic social order.
A great irony of history is that nations transform themselves through a “rhythmic pattern” rising from the primitive and savage stage, to pastoral and agrarian society. Then comes the affluence and the propensity to attain consummation and passion for empire building. The zenith of development and prosperity brings in its wake the lust and rapacity and the imperial temptations of commerce, conquest and colonization. (Empire on the edge of chaos, by Niall Furguson, Foreign Affairs, March-April 2010). According to British political philosopher Henry St. John 1738, as quoted by the above author: “The best instituted governments carry in them the seeds of their destruction and though they grow and improve for a time, they will soon tend visibly to their dissolution. Every hour they live is an hour the less that they have to live.” (P-20) The cyclic rise and fall of empires has been the patent theme of great philosophers of history. Hegel Marx propounded dialectical materialism as the major force that transforms history. Toynbee maintained that civilizations go through the three phases – the challenge, the response and suicide. Spangler also adhered to a ‘seasonal’ process of rise and fall. According to him the 19th century was the ‘Winter of West’s’ phenomenal rise of materialism and its attendant concomitants. Paul Kennedy identifies “imperial overstretch” as the major determinant of the collapse of great powers, i.e., the imperial commitments relative to their GDPs.
Unlike the cyclic order of destruction of Empire, Furguson propounds arrhythmic pattern – suddenness hypothesis between ‘order and disorder’. A critical phase may lead to collapse: “A very small trigger, he says, can set off a phase transition form benign equilibrium to a crisis – a single grain of sand causes a whole pile to collapse.” (P.22) Viewed in the context of the two conflicting views of the rise and fall of nations, one feels that both contain kernel of truth. USA assumed absolute power in the global order, after USSR got the taste of its ill conceived ‘invasion’ at the hands of the Afghan valiant freedom fighters, and hastily withdrew from the rugged soil in 1989 initially ignored the lesson of history that “Hindukush Mountain and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) have been the harbingers of imperial fall.” USSR has had a long history of empire building, but its fall from the ‘Cliff’ was rather sudden. Bad decision did it.
USA had two choices in the unipolar world. Exercise leadership through what Joseph Nye, calls ‘Soft Power’ and win over the hearts and minds of the global community – the wretched of the earth in particular. This would have established a credible leadership and a huge surplus in its bank account of Trust of nations. It opted, however, to follow its Anglo-Saxon cousin, Great Britain to follow the course through commerce (ala East India Company), conquer and then colonize. But history took a cruel turn and the sun set after all and ironically, it barely rises in the vanished British Empire, Over a dozen countries including India and Pakistan got freedom from the menace of colonization. Destruction, though it came suddenly but after a long turmoil and suffering brewing up among the countries under occupation. The same is the pattern of falling apart of Soviet Republics’ when the Red Army had to retreat from Afghanistan.
USA notwithstanding its empire building soon after World War II, and numerous military invasions in Latin American-neighbouring countries and Vietnam in particular, the Cold War has had a restraining influence, due to balance of power between USA and USSR. The unilateralism (ala courtesy Afghan freedom fighters and Pakistan) unleashed the latent desire to control the oil wealth of Iraq and after setting feet over Afghanistan through a regime change strategy, a new form of occupation and then to colonize (neo-colonialism) where strategic control is exercised so that access to Central Asian states rich with energy reservoirs becomes feasible besides exercising control over recalcitrant state like Iran and the fast growing China. India had to be inducted as a surrogate power (strategic partner) to control the region, just as Israel under US patronage has the full leverage to do what it likes, a sort of free license to kill Palestinians and annex their lands. It is part of crude power politics reministant of Hobbesian philosophy, whose great exponent in the contemporary world was Professor (late) Strauss at Chicago University, whose disciples were Dick Cheney and the other notable members of the Jewish clan called ‘Neocons’, who influenced George Bush to invade Iraq on contrived pretexts and Afghanistan as if it was instrumental in the 9/11 Manhattan tragedy. The real perpetrators of the crime were Egyptians and Saudi nationals, living in the western countries, Germany, Spain and USA, where they received training of flying jets, without which Trade Centre tragedy could not be possible.
The regime change, through induction of Karzai has proved disastrously prone to be corrupt and ineffective, just as the strategy failed in Iran by enthroning Shah and ousting the popular elected leader Mussedeq, Soharto in Indonesia, Maliki in Iraq, Pinochet in Chile, a greater tyrant than Saddam Hussein of Iraq through a coup master-minded by Henry Kissinger on 9/11, 1973 and several others. In Pakistan, also he was behind the hanging of a charismatic leader Z.A. Bhutto and bringing a military despot General Ziaul Haq, whose loyalty to USA caused colossal damage to Pakistan’s polity drifting from the popular ethos of the society of moderate Islam towards theocracy. When he was used for Afghan jehad to defeat the Red Army, he had to be eliminated through Air Crash as Nixon in his book In the Arena, has mentioned how dangerous it was to be friend of USA and insinuated that CIA engineered his elimination. The loyalist – General Musharraf, bartered the very sovereignty of the state for his personal gains, besides degrading the institutions that lend dignity to a nation.
USA is finally on the edge of chaos and the temper tantrums of the US leaders against Pakistan is expressive of the desperation that “War on Terror”, a great strategic bluff to conceal the real motive to augment US economy through exercising control over energy wealth of Muslim countries has backfired. USA is paying a heavy price – trillion of dollars for the blunder Bush committed.
Obama could with a vision engage the Taliban and help establish a truly representative government and share the peace dividends in terms of economic benefits, a paradigm China is very profitably using. But power blurs vision and Obama is opting to be on the wrong side of history, ignoring his own role model. Abraham Lincoln who said: “Force is all conquering but its victories are short lived.”
Dr S M Rahman is Secy Gen FRIENDS, a Think Tank established by General Mirza Aslam Beg. Dr Rahman has authored several books on regional and global issues. He is a frequent writer for Opinion Maker.