Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
The March 22, 2016 terror attack in Brussels was a tragedy foretold in these columns, when – following the Cameron-Clinton-Sarkozy intervention in Libya, it was pointed out that the intervention would generate a swelling flow of refugees into Europe as well as a secure base from where attacks on European Union members could get launched by terror groups. The problem with what is referred to in narcissistic terms as “The West” is that the countries belonging to this group consider themselves to be the only repositories of wisdom and look down with derision at assessments coming from “underdeveloped” locales, unless they be from individuals who have spent years in academic locales within the “western world” and who have therefore become an echo chamber for the views fashionable there, in the process shutting out any consideration of the realities of life in the locations they analyse.
“Western” scholars know a dizzying amount of detail, such as fluency in languages of different regions, but without understanding much of the emphases and uses of irony used by native speakers of such languages, with the result that nuances essential to understanding “deep meaning”( i.e. meaning beyond simple strings of words ) in what gets said or sometimes written in such target countries. In the case of Libya and later Syria, it is obvious that strategic planners in the US, the UK and France failed to conduct an exhaustive study of the prolific writings of those who opposed Muammar Kaddafy and Bashar Assad.
Had they done so, it would have been clear that it was not an attachment to Westminister-style democracy that impelled them to oppose the two authoritarians but a conviction that both were enemies of the fanatic Wahabbi faith that the extremists of Daesh or Al Qaeda profess. The consequence of such neglect of the intellectual roots of opposition to the regimes in Tripoli and Damascua was the Cameron-Clinton-Sarkozy policy of joining hands with Ankara, Doha and Riyadh in funding, training and equipping such anti-Kaddafy and anti-Assad fanatics to do battle on the model of 1980s Afghanistan.
When David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Nicholas Sarkozy watch on their television screens images of the dead and wounded in the Brussels attacks, it is unlikely that they will make the connection between this and their own actions beginning early 2011 onwards. “Western” politicians, officials and academics live in a bubble created entirely out of their own perceptions of the truth, and it is a bubble where the blame for disasters always rests elsewhere. The consequences of the actions taken by chancelleries in the major NATO powers are fobbed off to the natives. An example is mass killing of children, old and the diseased in Iraq caused by the sanctions imposed by President William Jefferson Clinton on Iraq in the 1990s, measures that were designed not simply to constrict the military led by Saddam Hussein but to inflict such misery on people of Iraq that they would turn on their dictatorial government.
Predictable, they instead saw the major powers in NATO as the guilty party, and this drove several to join fighting groups active against US forces in Iraq, as well as Al Qaeda offshoots that were active in global terror operations. Will Madeleine Albright acknowledge the role the sanctions so ruthlessly enforced by her on Iraq have played in creating the conditions for the mindsets of terror to flourish in Iraq and subsequently other locations where the military-oriented interventionist policies of David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Nicholas Sarkozy (as well as the successors of the latter duo) took place. Instead, the narrative heard in think tanks and official chambers in Washington, London or Paris is that Nazi-style organisations such as Daesh are the consequences of the very authoritarians in the Middle East who have for decades been in reality the death target of such outfits.
It is, however, not intellectual dishonesty that leads to such absurd conclusions but a suspension of belief in the truth and an almost subconscious embrace of a manufactured version of events in which truth gets garbled into conclusions that are removed from reality. Even two years after the toxic effects of their intervention have become too widespread to ignore, the John Kerrys and the Francois Hollandes still call for fresh doses of Cameron-Clinton-Sarkozy policy of going in locations where angels forbear to enter, despite clear evidence of the security risks of such policies to their own countries.
Astonishingly, as yet very few in France, the UK and the US accept that the terror attacks which are spreading like a rash across western Europe are the consequence of the policies followed by the Three Musketeers. Apart from the fact that Hillary Clinton may become the next President of the US and Sarkozy that of France, while Cameron remains Head of Government in the UK, what is disquieting is that the three apparently believe the fiction that they mouth. Such as that the carnage now being caused in Syria is the direct consequence of Barack Obama’s “timidity” in not recreating a Libyan-style intervention in Syria in 2012.
The reality is that an offer was made in that year for a peace agreement very similar to what is being discussed in Geneva these days, but this was shot down by France, the UK and US, who believed that Assad was about to fold. Today, there is no way the Geneva talks can succeed. The country is already fractured and cannot be put together again. What will emerge is a Kurdish state, a residual state controlled by Bashar Assad for the duration, and a sliver of territory that will in effect be a failed state let kept going for reasons of preetige and ego by some regional capitals.
Should the Assad regime have been taken down in 2012,by now not 40% but 80% of the Syrian population would have been refugees. It is mendacious of Hillary Clinton and other fantasists to suggest otherwise. However, given the poor level of understanding in modern Europe and North America of the chemistry and mechanics of the Middle East, wisdom is unlikely to dawn before the Daesh virus metastises to a level that will make bombings such as what took place in Brussels a part of everyday life in first Europe and afte rwards, the US.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.