The Politics of War

[From Liberation, April 1991.]

‘War is nothing but the continuation of the political process by other means’ — Karl von Clausewitz.

After the cold war, when Fukuyama was declaring the ‘End of History’, even he perhaps could not have dreamt that history would resume its course so soon.

Already it is about a month since the Gulf war started. George Bush feels that this is the last war after which a new international order will be established. In the eyes of Saddam Hussain this is the mother of all wars which will result in the resuscitation of the Arab countries and the liberation of Palestine. What will happen is yet to be seen, but it is certain that the motive behind this war is not merely the liberation of Kuwait. This war is the reflection of the present world contradictions and alliances and at the same time also the medium for the realignment of relations. War is a frenzied dance of death and devastation, but sometimes war becomes inevitable in history and imparts dynamism to history. The Gulf war in a real sense is indeed a new beginning of history.

The year 1990 was the year of the defeat of socialism and the triumph of imperialism. In East Europe ‘liberal democratic values’ emerged victorious against totalitarianism. Socialism was breathing its last in Soviet Russia. After the Tiananmen shock, China was pushed into a defensive position in the face of a Western offensive. The non-aligned movement lost all its relevance. World capitalism under the leadership of the USA unfurled its banner of victory and after many decades the world once again looked unipolar.

The new international order advocated by George Bush simply means US domination over Third World and its resources. In the proposed US defence budget for 1991, the allocation on account of the controversial ‘Star Wars’ has been raised to 4.8 billion dollars from 2.9 billion dollars last year. The budget statement refers to the reduction of the nuclear threat from Soviet Russia, but justifies this enhancement on the plea of probable missile attacks by Third World countries.

From this American perspective on the new international order, it is quite natural that the USA would not tolerate aggression on Kuwait by Iraq. Countries like the USA and the UK consider the right to West Asian oil their birthright. The fall of the US agent, the Sheikh of Kuwait, coupled with the rise of Iraq again as a strong country and its dominance over 20% of oil resources were indeed direct blows to the new international order. America was only too eager for a war and certainly it was a fine commentary on the unipolar world that the Security Council of the United Nations behaved like a slave of the USA; more than the European countries, all countries belonging to the US alliance joined the multinational army and this also included the Arab countries like Syria, Morocco and Egypt; Pakistan sent troops and India supplied fuel to the US military aircraft; Germany and Japan provided financial assistance; Soviet Russia offered moral support and China remained mysteriously silent. The political initiative was completely in the hands of the USA and Iraq was alone, absolutely alone. Barring some small countries like Yemen and Cuba, none raised a voice of protest against America. In spite of all these however, Iraq had decided to fight. By linking up the Palestinian question with the Kuwaiti issue and by resolving its old enmity with Iran, Iraq completed its preparation.

The war has been going on with all its cruelty. Iraq now faces the most horrible bombing in history and this has laid bare the ugly face of Western civilisation. All the remnants of the centuries-old Mesopotamian civilisation between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, historic cities like Baghdad and Basra and holy places of the Islamic civilisation several centuries old are being razed to the ground. Hundreds of children, women and ordinary citizens are being killed. The West’s fascination for high-tech has made this devastation a thrilling game on the television screen. The unseemly talk of US leaders and the language of the Western media clearly reflect their attitude of apartheid — an attitude of nothing but contempt for the aspirations, civilisation and culture of the impoverished countries of the Third World.

On the whole, the is the picture of the unipolar world America has been dreaming of.

However, a dream is after all only a dream. The American generals who had earlier claimed that victory would be theirs within six days have not yet mustered the courage to launch the ground attack. There have been reports of a high tide in mass demonstrations in many countries of the world in support of Saddam and against the USA. One country after another is being compelled to change its position and the rift within the multinational alliance is widening.

Saddam Hussain may very well be defeated in the war, but he has to a large extent been successful in linking up the Palestinian issue with that of Kuwait. Now any peace proposal shall have to consider the Palestinian problem. Even if Saddam were defeated, the Arabic nationalism aroused by him will continue to haunt America even in the days to come. Basing on this, France and other European countries will go in for independent political initiatives which are bound to come in conflict with US interests. The present phase of peaceful US-Soviet relations may also turn into one of hot peace. And the anti-American wave which is now sweeping Third World countries will definitely assume a new political complexion.

Whatever may be the outcome of the war it is definite that the US dream of a unipolar world will be buried in the Persian Gulf itself.