Daily: The News
In the famous play “Right You Are! If You Think So” (1917) of Luigi Pirandello (a Noble
laureate in Literature), a character Signora Cini says that she will believe what she sees
with her eyes and feels with her fingers. In response, another character Lamberto Laudisi
tells her: “You should show some respect for what other people see (with their eyes) and
feel (with their fingers), even though it be the exact opposite of what you see and feel”. (Act
The implied lessons are two-pronged. First, one should accept difference of opinion and
secondly, one should give consideration to the views of others. Another may be right where
one is wrong.
This is what the situation going on between George Bush of the USA and General Musharaf
of Pakistan. Having carried the blames of being pro-American, President General Musharaf
has, time and again, been donating one suggestion-cum-advice to his American counter-
part: settle the Middle-East issue (Israel-Palestine conflict) at the earliest, in response to
every call for Pakistan’s participation in the war against terrorism. However, there seems a
least regard from the listening side to what General Musharaf has been perceiving and
conveying with all sincerity.
In its essence it is not the USA but its policies that have been airing wrong signals around
the Muslim world. The way the USA has made Osama bin Laden ‘a representative’ of the
Muslim world, the gulf of misunderstanding between the West and the Muslims is widening
gradually (A ban on wearing headscarf of the Muslim women in France is a very recent
example). Today’s efficient intelligence network of the USA failed or was ‘compromised’ to
check Osama yesterday somewhere outside of Afghanistan, perhaps in Somalia.
Overestimating one’s prowess and underestimating other’s wickedness yield these sorts of
results. Now, Osama’s Al-Qaeda is an ‘elusive enemy’ and a ‘blind war’ has been launched
(i.e. when an enemy is elusive it is better to call the war to fight with him as a ‘blind war’).
Hitherto, General Musharaf has said one major ‘Yes’ and one major ‘No’ to America. The
‘Yes’ was: ‘Pakistan is with the USA in the war against terrorism’—in the immediate
aftermath of the 9/11 event. The ‘No’ was: ‘Pakistan will not send its troops to Iraq’—in the
wake of non-democratic decision of invasion, at the United Nations level. Hence, the net
score is Zero. However, in the light of recent internal developments in Pakistan, General
Musharaf may be pushed by the USA or USA-backed international agencies/organizations
into a position to choose again either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pertaining to the ‘context’ of Pakistan’s
nuclear assets. Looking at the broader definition, nuclear assets encompass both ‘Men’
and ‘Material’, where both are inextricably interlinked and intertwined. Men came first and
material later. This chronology is still vital and valid. Hence, the responsibility of General
Musharaf to protect both halves of the nuclear assets increases manifolds. General
Musharaf, in turn, seems to be apprehensive of two things: Firstly, chances of any physical
harm to the assets and secondly, economic cost of such an inevitable ‘No’.
Every one knows that ‘preservation’ of a thing is difficult than its ‘acquisition’. In this
backdrop, the Pakistanis believe that inflicting of any sort of harm to these assets is a
‘punishable offence’ irrespective of stature, colour, and religion of the offender. Here the
point is of ‘no compromise’ at all. Attached with the nuclear assets is honour of all
Pakistanis. For that matter, fear of economic cost is not deterrent. It is better ‘to live as a
poor but with an honour’. To that reference, a conclusion drawn by Oswald Spengler, in
1914, in his masterpiece ‘The decline of the West’ reminds us that ‘there is only one thing
certain in history, and that is decadence; just as there is only one thing certain in life, and
that is death—the Destiny’.
Decadence is a writ of nature. However, human mistakes hasten this process. For instance,
by announcing a ‘New World Order’ on January 29, 1991, President of the USA, George
Bush (Senior), in his address to the Congress, emphasized on dissemination of democracy
in the world. He also underscored a need for “the UN to become a forum for achieving
international consensus and maintain effective influence as an instrument for international
peace keeping”. Ironically, almost after a decade, his descendant bypassed the democratic
path to achieve a consensus in the UN as to whether or not invade Iraq? Secondly, failure
to gather update and accurate information on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) by the
concerned intelligence agencies eroded the claims of their credibility. Thirdly, undue
reliance on the ‘inside’ information provided by the fugitives of the Iraq’s regime was also a
grave mistake (It seems that these fugitives equaled their score with Sadam Hussain).
Fourthly, the information obtained was not counter-checked to verify the situation on the
ground. In a nutshell, an inverted chronology of ‘war first and excuse later’ was adopted.
This is how the concept of ‘mistakes of few people for many people’ emerged. This is the
same concept that gives an impetus to the undeniable process of decadence, as per
Instead of ‘winning hearts’, the ‘liberators’ are now ‘losing heads’ in Iraq. The resultant
count of human loss is mounting day by day and seems to become directly proportional to
the length of the ‘blind war’ in Iraq, as the enemy is also elusive here. There are indicators
that the ‘elusive enemy’ has been trying to test divergent tactics to ascertain what suit best
in the Urban Warfare. Of course, the various recent acts of bloodshed are not purposeless.
The elusive enemy seems to focus on three dimensions: First, Iraqis, so that they could not
compromise with the ‘liberators’; second, aides, so that they could leave the Anglo-
American alliance alone; and third, the ‘liberators’, so that they could not claim credit of
their job in shifting the politico-demographic balance of Iraq, as being pledged. Success in
‘carpet-bombing’, but failure in ‘carpet-sweeping’ has been encouraging the elusive enemy
to protract the war. The protractors may get advantage of the expected ‘storm of the desert’
in coming summer to encircle the ‘liberators’. That is why, it seems that the pre-June 2004
period is going to be vital in Iraq, especially when the elections are also following in Iraq,
besides Afghanistan. At that time, the pressure of the forthcoming elections in the USA may
prompt the USA—and even the UK—to commit certain mistakes in decision-making like
adopting more aggressive approach towards Iraq and its immediate neighbours. Hence, the
role of human mistakes may surface again in settling the events that can hasten the
What Pakistanis still remember is roaming of a historical creature known commonly as ‘a
bear with strong paws’ along its western flank—to quench its ‘thirst’ for warm water. Now, its
‘paws’ can be found along the roads of Afghanistan as rusty remains, while its ‘limbs’ are
scattered across the Eurasia—a few of which are poised, now, to join European Union. In
these events, there is hidden a great lesson for those who are ready to learn, that is, to get
engaged is one thing but to get disengaged is another. The former is one’s prerogative,
however, the latter is of the other. Moreover, if one wants to get disengaged gracefully, the
situation becomes more demanding of prudence.
To ‘establish authority in Kabul’ but to be ‘effective less in countryside’ is not a new
phenomenon, as had already been witnessed in post-1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the
then superpower in its neighbourhood. During the on-going operation in and around the
tribal belt of Pakistan, if Osama is found, the problem will be over. However, if the warlord
Gulbaddin Hikmatyar (Hizbi Islami) is harmed, a severe ‘Pushtoon backlash’ is not out of
sight. Gulbaddin, an Afghan-War veteran, and his aides seem difficult to be bought by
dollars or subjugated by fear. Talibans were no match to them. This unwanted ‘strategic
mistake’ is expected of the US forces that can lead to ‘renaissance of Mujahideens of pre-
1991 era’. Again the chances of human mistake are higher in Afghanistan too.
What concerns a Pakistani in this entire scenario is: in order to let enjoy the ‘graceful
retreat’ to the former invader of Afghanistan, Pakistan suffered internally—both politically
and economically. It is hoped that this time there will be no such demand from the ‘neo-
invader’. Pakistan is a small country and not meant for these huge tasks. Moreover,
mistakes of others should not become a sore for Pakistan. Similar are the inferences drawn
from Iraq’s present situation.
To get engaged at two places (Afghanistan and Iraq)—both of which are ungovernable—is
an uneasy proposition. At both the places, the enemy is elusive; wars are blind; and
chances of human mistakes are higher on part of the Anglo-American alliance.
Consequently, the result of the journey from ‘star wars’ of the past to ‘blind wars’ of the
present seems not very far—in terms of time.
In the wake of the aforementioned engagements, the major economic indicators have been
foreboding trouble for the USA. At the home front, its economy is on reserve gear;
expenditures, both internal and external are increasing; savings are dwindling; and dollar is
sliding down in international markets. Above all, China is emerging as an alternative bigger
customer of the European products. For how long this situation is sustainable is yet to be
determined. The sustainability will be gauged in terms of both economic and human loss.
Gabriel Tarde, a French sociologist and criminologist, wrote (in 1890) in ‘The Laws of
Imitation’ (page 139) “History is the war between mediocrity and genius”. What mediocrity
demands today is to allay the symptoms and signs of a cause. Hence, the resultant
invasion of two countries by the USA and its allies is evident. However, what genius calls for
today is to root out the root cause, this is what General Musharaf has been repeatedly
saying: settle the Middle-East problem (Israel-Palestine conflict) at the earliest. Instead of
tangling with ‘elusive enemies’ here and there and spending millions of dollars to wage
‘blind wars’ at severe human and economic cost, it is favourable for the USA—and its allies
too—to show some respect for what General Musharaf sees and feels, even if it is exact
opposite of what they (the USA and allies) see and feel. “The longer the earthquake is
delayed, the greater will be the shock when it comes” writes Hamish McRae, a famous
journalist, in The World in 2020—Power, Culture and Prosperity (edition 1994, part III,
chapter 10, page 224). Still there is time to forestall further mistakes and slow the process
of decadence. It is better late than never.
Back to columns in 2004