Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
AN overpowering desire for revenge often leads to catastrophe for the individual seeking retribution. Judging by the almost frantic manner in which he sought to launch a war against Saddam Hussein, it was obvious that President George W Bush was eager to show that he was, after all, a loyal son to “Pappy” George H W Bush. The dictator of Iraq had sought to assassinate Bush Senior, and needed to be taught a lesson, in the style of both the Pashtuns as well as Texans, neither of whom evidently forget a slight. It has been said of many politicians that they forget in a few seconds any favour done to them, while remembering a slight for decades.
George W Bush is clearly such an individual, and past experience indicates that both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald John Trump share this trait with the US President who began a war in Iraq in 2003 which continues to drain his country’s finances and stain its reputation to this day. The difference is that Trump is open about his peeves, whereas Hillary Clinton conceals her anger, at least in public. Presidential debates in the US are intended to give voters a close look at the main candidates, but in the case of the Democratic Party nominee, it was clear that she was sticking to a well rehearsed script, with even her sallies (such as the “Russian puppet” charge against Trump seemingly coming out of a playbook scripted by her formidable team, which includes a hyper efficient Indo-Pakistani of established personal loyalty and grace under pressure, Huma Abedin.
Turning to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump was clearly ad lobbing during the three debates, coming across as himself to his cost against a poised Clinton, who seems on course to win the race on November 8, if most polls are accurate and Wikileaks does not release data so damming that voters will get repelled from an individual who has been in public life for more than three decades. Although the US and the UK ceaselessly lecture poorer countries on the importance of democratic traditions and practices ( a view with which this columnist fully agrees), the manner in which Ecuador has been arm twisted to deprive Julian Assange of access to the internet is a disgrace. That a country whose people gave themselves the Magna Carta a millennium ago has been silent about such a deprivation of the human rights of Assange indicates once again the selectivity apparent in homilies on human rights and freedoms of Washington and London.
Clearly, the Obama administration does not want to see any more email clusters get released, and is hoping for silence or at the least incoherence from Wikileaks now that its “brain” has been separated from the “body” through denial of internet access till the US elections conclude. Should Hillary Clinton get elected, it is likely that Ecuador will get “persuaded” to expel Assange from the premises of its embassy in London, thereafter giving an opportunity to deport him to Sweden to face trial brought about by two women who each seem to have been physically powerless to give the physically unimpressive Wikileaks founder the beating he deserved, were their charge of assault against him correct. Somehow their story seems as difficult to believe as that of some of Donald Trump’s accusers, who came out with their versions exactly when he was doing well in the campaign. Many of these accusers have paraded “oral witnesses” to whom they claim they told their story at the time such activity occurred.
The fact is that such “witnesses” can be tutored as completely as the “victims”, unless there be emails and other evidence showing that such a transmission of information actually took place during the times mentioned. Of course, even emails can be created that are fake, or (as has happened in the case of Hillary Clinton) disappear. This columnist has been correct in every political forecast since 1984, and if Donald Trump loses in the polls, this perfect record will get smudged. However, more than such professional pride in a record of forecasting outcomes, what is worrisome is the fact that Hillary Clinton seems to be moving in lockstep with Ankara, Doha,Riyadh, London and Paris on what needs to be done in Syria. This country is no Libya, and any effort to effect such measures as a No Fly zone will result in an immediate confrontation with Moscow, for whom the Baathist regime in Syria is non-negotiable. US,UK and French aircraft will not have the easy time that they did in Iraq and Libya, but will instead meet with resistance that would include the routine downing of aircraft, thereby creating a ladder of escalation which could have a spillover impact on Europe.
During the past year, the Obama administration seems to have returned to the sway of the Clintons insofar as several of its policies have been concerned, and in recent weeks, large tranches of weapons have gone to groups “vetted” by regional intelligence agencies that are riddled with sympathisers of Daesh. That organisation has been given a lifeline by the hatred of Washington, London, Ankara and some other capitals towards Bashar Assad, who in practice is seen as much more of a potent threat than Abubakr al Baghdadi despite being secular and running a government in which nearly 80% of the top functionaries are Sunni, as indeed is his loyal wife, who declined to listen to NATO and run away, leaving her husband to the same sort of wolves as enabled Hillary Clinton to exult “he died” on news of killing of Muammar Kaddafi. Clinton is cocooned within a foreign policy establishment that is nervous about scale of its past errors being exposed, and is consequently doubling down on very policies that are resulting in slow collapse of US global primacy at hands of China and its partner, Russia.
In contrast, Donald Trump has zero baggage from the past, and is much more likely to make the fresh start that Washington needs if it is to continue to be the most consequential power on the globe. The people of the US may not know it, but they be voting on November 8 for “Clinton’s War” on Syria, a conflict likely to be even more incendiary of geopolitical stability as George W Bush’s 2003 war on Iraq.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.