Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An American tragedy and the myth of the global war on terrorism

September 11, 2001 is an American tragedy and an American trauma. The world can both sympathise and empathise with it, and it did. But this was not a world-historic event as it was made out by the political and military leaders of the United States by declaring a global war on terrorism. India had been facing terrorism in a sustained manner from the 1980s onwards. But president Geroge W Bush seemed to have convinced most of his Nato and European allies that the terrorist attack in New York and Washington was a declaration of war against the western world. India and Pakistan vied with each other to be on the American side. After the initial hiccups, Islamabad sidled up to Washington and received billions of dollars in aid.

The global war that was let loose in Afghanistan in November, 2001 and then against Iraq in March 2003 seemed more in the nature of a national rather than a global policy, which benefited the United States more than any other country. It was the Americans who perceived a threat from the Taliban and the Saddam Hussain regimes, and they went about destroying the two. India was denied a military role in Afghanistan, and it was very nearly forced into one in Iraq. It had a tough time balancing its own national interests with that of the US. But most of Asia, especially in the east, from Singapore to Japan, were not affected by it. West Asia and the Arab world, which should have been the epicentre of jihadi terrorism were implicated in their own imbroglios, which turned into a game changer of sorts in Tunisia and Egypt. But the Muslim world remained a passive spectator of the American war waged on the western edge of south Asia. There was not a whiff of it in the most troublesome place, Palestine-Israel. Africa and atin America were completely out of the arc of terrorism or its consequent wars.

The surprising thing has been that India's strategy pundits of all hues swallowed hook, sink and bait the American rhetoric of global war against terrorism. The global war against terrorism was restricted to Afghanistan and Iraq. Yes, there have been terrorist attacks in Europe that bore the stamp of what could be an international jihadi group, though there has been no hard evidence to back it. Islamic fundamentalists have always existed, and they are not always the terrorist type. Terrorists can be tamed and even eliminated, but the fundamentalists will always be there. And the fundamentalists are not peculiar to Islam. They are there in significant numbers among Christians in Europe and in America, and more so in the United States.

So, the illusion that the first decade of the new century has been spent in fighting the global war against terrorism has to be dispelled. Of course, the American propaganda has made many of us believe that we have all been fighting this global menace of Islamic terrorism. India still faces terror attacks as it had before September 11, 2001. It is just that the incidents after this supposedly signficance have been made part of the story of global terrorism. It remains a localised war. There is a possibility of a transnational jihadi network, but it is no more dangerous than an international crime syndicate or the inter-continental smugglers.

Quite clearly, the American market meltdown of late 2008 had greater global consequences across the European and Asian – including the Arab -- markets than the terrorist attacks of September, 2001. Tariq Ali, the penitent Trotskyite, remarked that this war on jihadi terrorism was piffle. He said this was a mere pretext for the Americans to carry out their military plans. It would have sounded the ranting of a fanatical leftie's anti-American spiel. It does not sound as implausible as it did some years ago a decade later

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