Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
History has shown time and time again how in democracies on dependent-minded leaders very soon begin to follow the lead given by the bureaucracy. The Foreign Secretary of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson, is the latest – clearly eager and willing – victim of this kind of house training by officialdom. In a conference in London where he was the star attraction, Johnson called for the “removal of Bashar Assad”.
In the past, Prime Minister David Cameron and whoever it was who was Foreign Secretary then declaimed equally persistently for the removal of Muammar Kaddafy in Tripoli. The triumvirate of Cameron, Hollande and Clinton the last named being, the then US Secretary of State, who was usually successful in bullying President Obama into following her aggressive lead in external policy towards weak Third World countries. Needless to say, Hillary Clinton had in 2011 and still has in 2016 an entirely different approach towards even first-stage nuclear powers such as North Korea, not to speak of globe’s other superpower, China.
Were Bashar Assad to be removed the way the “moderate opposition” congregated in London wants him to be, the same way as Kaddafy, through the use of force, that part of Syria still in his control, and which is relatively far more stable than the rest of the country, would dissolve into a murderous chaos. Christians especially, who have congregated in those parts of Syria run by Assad rather than by the bits controlled by the “moderate fighters” that are being armed, trained and funded by NATO and the GCC, will face another genocide, as would Alawites and Druze, while non-Wahabbi Sunnis would either have to convert to that philosophy or face execution. Boris Johnson has a superb IQ and must surely be aware of this reality. The only way to explain his clutching at the same disastrous policy of Cameron is that he has learnt to march in step behind his officials.
The mandarins of Whitehall backed the takeover of Iraq after the 2003 downfall of Saddam Hussein by the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by a clownish Paul Bremer. They looked the other way when Iraq was denuded of its treasures and by much of the substantive symbols of a great history. Later, they became cheerleaders for the removal of the Libyan dictator, who was bad, but what followed him was awful. During the period when Kaddafy was in charge of the country, Libyans had jobs and income. They had security and healthcare, besides the right to education in the country or abroad. They each had housing. After what Whitehall considers their “liberation”, they lack each of these requirements of a civilised life, not that there is any prospect of any of the officials who pushed for such a disastrous policy being held to account by the Human Rights Court at the Hague.
In the manner of 007,who had a licence to kill, so does NATO, and woe betide any individual who questions such an axiom. Small wonder that Italy practically broke off normal diplomatic relations with India and barred the entire European Union from entering into agreements with Delhi till two marines who had shot and killed two unarmed fishermen in their small boat were permitted to return to their home country, where they have been celebrated as heroes
There are many who admired Boris Johnson as an individual who spoke his mind and who refused to settle down comfortably in the bureaucratic box. His shabby performance at the September London conference on Syria has dismayed them. However, he has not been the first to have clay flowing out of his trousers. Bernie Sanders, the senior Senator from Vermont, made millions in his own country believe that he was serious about a revolution.
In particular, they trusted him when he spoke of slaying the dragon of greed that rests within Wall Street, and which has allowed the financial services industry in the US to dominate manufacturing. Wall Street has bought up, broken up and sold bits and pieces of Main Street since Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagal law in the 1990s. This has gone to such an extent that income distribution in the US has become much mire skewed than in the period before Reagan, Deng and Thatcher, who prized wealth above all else and set their countries on a path whereby the wealthy prospered hugely while the middle class began to shrink.
It was clear from almost the start of the 2015 campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination that Bernie Sanders was not really interested in besting Hillary Clinton. Had he been so, there is no way the Vermont populist would have thrown away his best card, that of the Clinton emails, by declating that he had no interest in them, nor should anyone else. From that time onwards, Sanders was doomed, although few then believed that he would rech so far down that he would become a cheerleader for the Clintons, who are the toast of Wall Street and have the money to show for such an attitude. That Hillary Clinton’s bombast about Wall Street is empty is known to every individual in government.
Which makes it all the more surprising that Bernie Sanders would so damage his credentials as to beg for votes on her behalf throughout the US. Interestingly, Donald Trump (though wealthier than the Clintons for now) has had a testy relationship with Wall Street, which has several times reacted in a way less than helpful to construction tycoon.
Will Angela Merkel, who is for the moment the boss of the EU, follow Whitehall in calling for bombs to rain over those parts of Damascus controlled by Assad? What is saving the Syrian politician is the fact that Moscow may be willing to cut a deal which cuts him out, but only if the EU, the US and of course that presently in-between country, the UK, agree to the annexation of Crimea. It is an article of faith within the EU that a single European is worth more than a hundred thousand in Asia, if not more.
Hence it is unlikely that Washington and its allies will budge on their demand that Moscow surrender the Crimea. Should Vladimir Putin comply, his political career would be finished, which would be another plus for NATO. However, the canny Russian leader knows the toxicity of the card that his interlocuters want him to play, and is unlikely to oblige. And so long as NATO fails to accept that the Crimea belongs to Russia, Bashar Assad is safe.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.