Saturday 5 December 2015

Cameron’s ‘70,000 moderates’ bluff passes (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat

Friday, December 04, 2015 - IT has been fortunate for the US that thus far, Daesh has not concentrated its attention on that country the way it has on Europe. The size of the country, the sea of weaponry legally available, as well as the reality of economic distress leading to a much easier flow of accomplices to violence, these and other factors make it relatively easy to ignite a mass terror incident across much of the country. Although their political systems are different, the US and China both use a similar method to ensure a damping down of violent incidents, which is to respond with disproportionate force to any such manifestation. 

In both countries, police units are given the weaponry and training available in other parts of the world only to the military, with US police units being particularly well endowed in this regard. The country’s legal sanction for the purchase and bearing of guns makes such a surfeit of equipment inevitable, as otherwise the temptation to use guns would often be too much to resist, even in situations where such a recourse would be a severe over-reaction. Indeed, in any civilised society, recourse to deadly weapons is valid only where it is a question of self-defence, and not otherwise. 

What took place 48 hours ago at San Bernardino in California, where the innocent and the helpless were killed by shooters who appear to have adopted the ideologies and strategies of Daesh (ISIS), is a case in point. 

The longer Daesh survives as a coherent entity, the more will be those who seek to follow its violence-ridden logic. Which is why its extinction needs to be the only - repeat only - priority of the international community, rather than the mixture of objectives that is these days holding up the creation of a Global Grand Alliance (GGA) against ISIS. Policymakers in Europe are still romantic about the period when that continent ruled the globe, and therefore strive to ensure that the last word on international disputes still vests with them. 

The UN system has been taken over for the purpose, with European countries active in both acts of war as well as in the “peacemaking” which follows. Almost all the UN’s special representatives in conflict zones are from Europe, and it is hardly a secret that the agenda followed by them is that set by EU headquarters rather than that of UN headquarters, not that the latter is showing any sign of independence from the former. In any war, what is needed is to have a limited and achievable objective. During the 1939-45 war, both Winston Churchill as well as Franklin Roosevelt focussed on defeating Germany, and succeeded. As soon as Germany launched a war against the USSR in mid-1941, both London and Washington set aside past differences with Moscow and began a policy of ensuring a rising flow of munitions and other resources essential to the prosecution of war to Moscow. But for such help, it is likely that Germany would have been able to roll back Soviet forces to the other side of the Ural mountains, while without the savage attack of an indomitable Red Army on its flanks and later at its core, it would not have been possible for the UK and the US to hold Germany at bay before it could invade the British isles. Unfortunately, there are no longer Roosevelts and Churchills in the chancelleries of the NATO alliance, only cartoon characters such as Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarkozy and others, who confuse strategy with tactics and what is desirable but impossible with what is feasible. 

The consequence is policy which prolongs conflict rather than ends it, and prolongs it in the name of ending it. Now that it has become a question of ego, the NATO powers are ignoring reality in their search for solutions in Iraq and Syria which are acceptable to their regional allies, which in the bigger country means a return of subservience of the Shia as was the case under Saddam Hussein, and in the latter country, concentrating attention on the downfall of Bashar Assad at the expense of the war against Daesh. In such a course, lies are acceptable, as was witnessed when David Cameron spoke of “70,000 moderate fighters” on the field in Syria. 

The Prime Minister of United Kingdom is served by an efficient cluster of secret services, and he must therefore be aware that what he is talking about is nonsense. That the bulk of the “moderates” are in Al Nusra front and Ahrar Al Sham, neither of which can be termed “moderate”. It is unfortunate that Cameron is repeating error he made in Libya, when he gave a similar certificate to groups battling Muammar Kadhafi so that assistance could be provided to them. At that time, this columnist had pointed out that several of the “moderate” leaders being hailed by Hillary Clinton, Nicholas Sarkozy and David Cameron as fathers of democracy in Libya had repeatedly made speeches calling for “death and destruction” to all those who refused to conform to their ultra-radical ideology, and that such words and written tracts were exactly the same as were being peddled by Al-Qaeda. 

The Libyan leaders who were assisted to overthrow the Libyan government in Tripoli made no secret of their extremist views, just as the “moderate fighters” in Syria refuse to hide their affiliation to Al-Qaeda and in the case of several of them, to offshoots of Daesh. After having allowed Cameron to get away with his untruths in Libya in 2011 and reaped the consequences, it is striking that MPs are willing to once again accept his fiction of “moderates”, seemingly unaware that any role for such elements in a future Syrian administration would ensure a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Daesh in the territories run by such “moderates”, exactly as has taken place in Libya. 

It would appear from the way the situation is developing that Cameron, Hollande and others who ought to have learnt from Libya are fated to ensure a further deterioration in the security situation of Europe as a consequence of their actions. Only the Syrian people seem to have understood the lessons of 2011. Once Libya descended into chaos by 2012-13, they began to cluster around Bashar Assad, aware that while he was far from perfect, the option was far worse. Nothing that has taken place over the past weeks leads to confidence that those claiming to seek to defeat Daesh will accept the need to set aside other objectives and focus on this single aim. Unless they do, the region and a growing number of other spots throughout the globe will feel the pain of the wrong policies of the EU leadership.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India. 

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