Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
AROUND half of the previous century and throughout the preceding few, European states had been in control of much of Asia, losing the continent at least in a formal way only after two debilitating conflicts in the 20th century. Subsequently, especially since the 1970s, technologies were developed that democratised the ability to get information and reduced its costs. Of course, mega corporations based in the developed countries seek to charge extortionate prices for their hardware and software offerings, often using law courts in their own countries to get verdicts against competitors from Asia and to block consumers from accessing low cost options to the wares of such corporations.
Despite this, and in large part because of the altrusim of several citizens in European and North American countries who have developed free software, and a few manufacturers in the developing world who are seeking to produce computer hardware are prices affordable to hundreds of millions more global citizens than is the case at present, individual citizens have been empowered by technology in a manner such as to challenge the efforts of governments everywhere to have a monopoly of control and influence over the citizen. Unfortunately, overall, governments in the former colonial powers still hold on to the desire for control, and this has found expression even in the present century, which has been replete with UN-approved “trusteeships” being granted to former colonial powers over their previous colonies, as for example the UK ( together with the US) over Afghanistan, or France in Syria and Italy in Libya.
Most of the sensitive components of the United Nations Organization are headed by citizens of former colonial powers, and very soon, so will the position of Secretary-General of the organization Nowhere has the conflict of interest between the specific geopolitical imperatives of a particular bloc of states and the general good of the entire international community been so much in conflict as in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Of course, CNN, BBC and television channels toeing their line misrepresent the “international community” as referring solely to the two sides of the North Atlantic, leaving out China, India and Russia as well as most of South America and Africa from their calculus. In colonial times, the populations of many of these countries were inconsequential, and they have been calculated as so by media channels still following the logic of the colonial era, where some human beings counted for much more than others.
Conspiracy theories are usually overblown, and to claim that there is a deliberate strategy by the Atlantic Alliance behind the ongoing collapse of societies in the Middle East would be to indulge in fiction. However, even if the reasons for the same are benign, the effect of intervention by the US, the UK, France and other “western” powers in the region has proved a disaster. From the final stages of the 19th century, France and especially the UK backed the most extreme religious zealots in the Middle East, or those whose ascendance would doom local populations to a condition of educational stagnation and societal degradation. Human rights were downgraded and democracy shunned. It had been hoped that the new century would be different and that Tom Friedman’s “Flat World” hypothesis would come about, but events have made clear that the “flat” globe still has several mounds of unequal opportunity disfiguring it.
In 2003, President George W Bush in effect made Iraq a colony of the US and other military allies of his, ruling through Paul Bremer, a proconsul whose knowledge of local conditions was as low as the level of his administrative competence. Bush threw away victory in Afghanistan by giving cash and weapons to radical warlords rather than to modernizers. And after the 2011 uprisings in several Arab countries, Hillary Clinton, Nicholas Sarkozy (then Francois Hollande) and David Cameron armed, trained and funded fighters, many of whom joined Daesh within months of getting largesse from these self-deluded individuals Although Hillary Clinton has not for a long time been a formal part of the Obama administration, her people are pervasive within it, and as a consequence, much of US policy in the Middle East has been toxic to the interests even of Washington.
However, few examples of self-defeating tactics would be able to compete with the hysterical cry throughout both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to save IS fighters trapped in Aleppo. Acting through Stefan de Mistura, who is loyal not to the Secretary-General of the UN but to the Secretary-General of NATO, there have been a flood of calls for a cease fire that would permit the roughly 2800 hardcore IS fighters in Aleppo to escape so as to form nucleii that would train more legions of extremists in order to wreak havoc. Several of such hardcore fighters would, if de Mistura had his way, be enabled to flee into Europe in the guise of “moderate freedom fighters”, and once there set up terror cells designed to create mayhem on the lines seen in France or Belgium.
Fortunately for the region, it is Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton who was elected on November 8, and although several in Team Trump nurse the same skewed picture of Mideast reality as the Clintons do (no doubt uninfluenced by hefty donations to their foundation from regional powers pushing for the same strategy), the fact is that President Trump is unlikely to defer to any views other than his own, and he has shown over months of campaigning a refreshingly accurate understanding of ground realities in the Mideast, targetting IS as the principal foe the way Franklin Roosevelt focussed on the Nazi Party has the primary enemy of the US during wartime. Aleppo is likely to fall into the hands of the Damascus regime, and several of the 2800 hardcore IS fighters are likely to have a very rough time, of course with the consolation that policymakers in the US, France, the UK and other states that such extremists will soon be concentrating on worked very hard to save them.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.