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DAWN - Opinion; October 30, 2001

October 30, 2001

The world in turmoil: why?

By Shahid Javed Burki

THE Washington-based National Press Club convened a panel a few days ago to present their views to a collection of journalists on why the world was in turmoil. The panel was made up of five people, two academics, two former American ambassadors to the countries in the Middle East and myself. Much of the discussion was focused on the failure of the US policy in the Middle East.

The assumption was that the US had to take some responsibility for igniting the anger that led to the attacks of September 11, but some of the discussion also dwelt on the alleged propensity of Islamic societies to choose violence to have their voice heard. In other words, no matter what the US did, the citizens of Muslim countries will continue to make trouble for the West.

My own presentation was based on a few notes I had put together to clarify my understanding of what was occurring all around us — in the United States, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and in the Middle East. I thought I will share these notes and the logic I followed in my presentation with the readers of these columns.

I formulated my views in a logical framework that eventually led me to discuss the prevailing and evolving situation in Pakistan. My logic went in that direction not because I am from Pakistan. I took that line for the reason that I am persuaded that unless properly handled, the Afghan problem could expand into an Afghan-Pakistan or Afghan-Pakistan-Central Asian problem. If that were to happen, the world could be left with a much larger problem that it confronts today.

How did I get to that point? I am an economist, used to finding simple answers to complex questions. I believe a lot of time is being wrongly invested in the West in trying to understand Islam so that a better fix can be obtained on the events of September 11. A number of questions are being asked. Does Islam condone or encourage violence? Is it a religion that advocates peace and respect for life? Can Islam coexist with the largely secular West?

There was a particularly vicious article in the Outlook section of The Washington Post a few days back that suggested that the followers of Islam cannot live in peace with the followers of other religions. This is of course absurd. But my real point is that a debate such as this does little to focus attention on the real problem the world must address: why are there so many failing states across the world and why are the citizens of these states treating the US as a cause of their problems?

The events of September 11 were not produced by Islam — Islam was not the motivating force. It was an instrument used against America. In response to the terrorist attacks, the Americans were using sophisticated technology against the Afghans. We can’t say that it is technology that is prompting the war against terrorism and against Afghanistan. Equally, it is wrong to say that Islam is battling against America and the West.

The true reason is that Islam is a convenient instrument to be used by those who have lost hope in the future. Like the followers of most other religions, those who wish to exploit the word of God to further their narrow interests will find verses in the Koran that would make their case for them. Christians and Jews have also turned to their scriptures — and the Hindus to their books — to achieve precisely that. There is nothing unique about Islam that pushes people to seek martyrdom to advance the causes in which they believe. All religions have bred fundamentalists. The West must recognize that fundamentalist thinking is not a monopoly of Islam.

One strong impression left by a careful reading of the profiles of the 19 terrorists who committed the crimes of September 11 is worth underscoring. These people were not devout Muslims. But they were angry — very angry — at the regimes that dominated their countries and they turned their anger on America. If the economic, social and political situation does not improve in the countries from which these terrorists came, other people may be tempted to follow their example.

There is a strongly held belief among people in the Middle East and some Muslim states that it is the US that is keeping the repressive regimes in place in the countries to which they belong. These regimes are being supported since they help the US to keep in place two important pillars of its foreign policy: help to the state of Israel and access to the oil riches of the Middle East. In the way the US has built its coalition for the war against international terrorism, it may end up encouraging the perpetuation of equally repressive regimes in Central Asia.

In other words, the US may be inadvertently helping create an economic and social agenda fuelled by religious zealotry. It is not religion that is provoking this response but the failure of dozens of states to work for their citizens, sometimes in pursuit of US interests.

This logic can also be applied to the evolving situation in Pakistan. I told my audience at the National Press Club that Pakistan was embarked on its third Afghan war. The first war was fought for a decade — from 1979 to 1989 — when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan. Pakistan joined that war at the behest of the US. It fought the second war in Afghanistan to deal with the aftermath of the first war. After working hard to assemble a government that could accommodate the diverse interests of the seven groups of Mujahideen who had fought the Soviets, Pakistan chose to help an entirely new assembly of Afghans — the Taliban — to establish control over their country. Pakistan’s assistance to the Taliban was our second Afghan war. It lasted from 1989 until September 11, 2001, during which time Pakistan essentially dealt with the problems created by the first US engagement in Afghanistan.

How long will the new war last? What will be its consequence for Pakistan? In what way the impact on Pakistan could influence the rest of the world? What lessons could Pakistan learn from the previous two engagements to better handle its involvement in the present conflict?

The answers to these questions depend to some considerable extent on how the West and Pakistan conduct this war and also on the effect of the war on the Pakistani economy, society and polity.

Pakistan faced a grim economic situation before September 11 largely on account of years of mismanagement that created a heavy burden of debt, increased economic inefficiency, resulted in low levels of investment and perpetuated an abysmally low level of social development. In the 1990s, the Pakistani economy lost all dynamism.

The most important consequence of the economic decline was on the poorer segments of the population. There are now 50 million people living in poverty and their number is increasing at the rate of 10 per cent a year, four times the rate of population growth. Pakistan is adding five million people a year to the pool of poverty and this number could increase further if the economic situation continues to deteriorate. We now know that an increase in the incidence of poverty presents a serious problem to society, not only because it is morally reprehensible or economically inefficient to have a large pool of poverty. The poor also produce social and political instability.

Pakistan may pay a heavy price for its third war in Afghanistan. Many importers have cancelled orders and, consequently, exports may decline by 10-15 per cent in 2001-2002. No new foreign direct investment is coming in. Foreign airlines have stopped operating in the country. Insurance and freight rates have gone up. In other words, Pakistan’s battered economy could worsen more as a result of the dynamics unleashed by the events of September 11.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of refugees have started pouring into the country. Their care will add to the government’s burden. Their presence could also add another element of instability to our already unsettled situation.

Without immediate foreign help, Pakistan could lose 1-1-1/2 percentage points in growth rate this year. The GDP growth rate may fall to 1.5 to 2.0 per cent in 2001-2002. If that were to happen, the recession will deepen, unemployment — in particular urban unemployment — will increase, and another six to seven million people will be added to the pool of poverty.

Where will those 6 to 7 million newly unemployed, or yet to be employed, poor people go? In the current environment they will swell the ranks of the religious groups and parties. They will become intensely resentful of the West — in particular of the Americans. They will be easy prey for the fundamentalist elements who are ready to exploit any situation to advance their cause against the West. If we now notice some easing in the agitation on the streets against the American assault on Afghanistan, wait until more civilian deaths occur as a result of the bombing and the arrival of more refugees. Resentment against Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. may begin to mount if the air campaign on Afghanistan is carried on during the month of Ramazan with the same intensity we have seen in the last two weeks.

What are the options available to the policy makers in Pakistan and the members of the coalition it has joined? I believe that four things must happen quickly.

One, Pakistan must receive economic assistance soon in order to lighten its debt burden and revive its economy. New money should come in not only for one year but should be made available on a continuous and predictable basis for a number of years so that the country could plan a long-term strategy for its economic and social revival.

Two, Pakistan must use this additional resource to fundamentally improve its social sector — in particular education. It must not rely on religious madrassahs to educate the poor and the lower middle classes. Instead, the public sector must reoccupy the space abandoned to religious institutions.

Three, Pakistan must launch public works programmes in both urban and rural areas in order to quickly generate new employment opportunities. The government must find a way of putting money into the pockets of the poor and the unemployed to keep them off the streets.

And four, Pakistan must move towards a representative form of government so that people have a voice in the way they are governed.

A failure to do these things will add to the enormous resentment that already exists in Pakistan against the West — in particular against the Americans. The world cannot afford to add another tens of millions of angry people to those who have already hurt America.

Prime-time war

By Omar Kureishi

WHEN the military action in Afghanistan has been victoriously concluded and Osama bin Laden been captured or killed and the al-Qaeda smashed to smithereens will there be less terrorists or more? Will the operation be considered successful even though the patient died?

The United States and its coalition partners, for reasons best known to them and which are a closely guarded secret, chose military strikes as the first option rather than a last resort. The mounting toll of civilian casualties would suggest that the war has not gone according to plan and the smart bombs have proved to be not so smart.

We were told, piously, that the war was against terrorism and not against the Afghan people. Given the saturation bombing, long after the Americans and British have run out of targets, expensive bombs raining down on worthless rubble, it is hard to see how civilians can be avoided. Yet we continue to be told that the war is not against the Afghan people.

All wars have become total wars and the civilian has become a combatant. War is war and it is hell and there are no rules. The Geneva Convention expressly prohibits the bombing of hospitals, even military hospitals but from high up there, up above the clouds how does one distinguish a hospital from a munitions depot? How will the war in Afghanistan end? Will the Taliban sue for peace? Or will the Taliban abandon the cities and make for the mountains and from these hide-outs harass the broad-based government that all peace-loving people avowedly wish for Afghanistan? Perhaps, the military option was exercised precipitously, without solid homework being done.

Except for a tiny minority who may be privy to what’s going on, the rest of us depend entirely on the media for news and this confers an awesome responsibility on it. How is it shaping up? I watch CNN and BBC and occasionally Fox News and Sky News. This is about their dispatches from the front-line which also includes the roof of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, a much of a muchness, varying slightly in emphasis but switch on one channel and you will get all the news that’s fit to air, the others become booster shots.

It is said that truth is the first casualty in war and to some extent the ‘management’ of news is understandable and like the civilian, the media too is a combatant in total war. Noam Chomsky, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an eminent political analyst discloses in the book Propaganda and the public mind: conversations with Noam Chomsky how three major American television networks were made a party to the bombing of Libya by Ronald Reagan in April 1986.

This is what he discloses: “In the case of Libya, it was really dramatic. It took a lot of self-discipline for the media and the commentators never comment on this. The Libya bombing was precisely at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and that was no small trick. That happened to be at the time when the three television networks had their evening news. That meant that the Reagan administration was given free time on television.

“First of all, the television cameras immediately shifted to the exciting events in Tripoli and Benghazi — lights going off, bombs falling, all great stuff. Then you go to Washington and the Reagan administration says what’s going on is ‘self-defence against future attack.’ They essentially control the story for the first hour. Then, of course it’s over.

“A couple of questions come to mind. How come the bombing was precisely at 7 p. m. when all three networks begin their evening newscasts? That was no easy job. It was a six-hour flight from England. They couldn’t even fly directly because the continental countries refused to allow overflights. They were opposed to the bombing. So they had to fly over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. They got there precisely at 7 p.m.

“The first major war crime that was timed for prime-time television. The second question is, why were the networks even there? Does ABC have a studio in Libya? They were there because they were told. Be ready at 2 a.m. Libyan time. We’re going to put on a show for you. Nobody was supposed to notice this. You can look back to 1986 and see how much commentary there was about this subtle fact.”

The worth and value of television was first discovered during the Vietnam war and it was reported that major battles were timed for prime-time viewing. But television proved to be a double-edged sword. It brought the war, its horrors and the body-bags to American homes. Wars are now waged as much for territory and oil reserves as for the minds and hearts of your own people. If you can win the minds and hearts of the people of the enemy country, that’s a bonus.

Thus along with the bombs, food parcels (that include peanut butter) are also being delivered. The emergence of Al-Jazeera has been seen as a setback. But in the end, television rarely changes the minds and the fixed positions of the viewers. But if the casualties toll continues to mount, soon too will the anger.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, I have received many anxious inquiries from friends abroad about my welfare seeing, as they do, pictures of demonstrations and processions, the burning of effigies by fierce and menacing protectors, giving an overall picture of great turmoil and mayhem.

I have reassured them that life is pretty normal and no one is going round in fear, that is to say, an extra fear beyond that we feel, in any case, in Karachi. The newspapers are dutifully reporting the daily ration of car-snatching and the odd dacoity. That we are concerned is to be expected, as who isn’t? But the country is not immobilised and we are switched on to the cricket in Sharjah.

Progress in the Balkans

ALTHOUGH the Bush administration is rightly focusing almost all its attention abroad on war against terrorism, it was good to see the reappearance of a veteran State Department diplomat, James Pardew, in Macedonia, the latest Balkan country to be afflicted by ethnic battles.

A rare diplomatic success story has been somewhat bumpily but steadily taking shape in that southeast corner of Europe — one that offers a good model of European-American cooperation in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Macedonia, like neighbouring Kosovo, is divided between ethnic Slavs and ethnic Albanians, though in Macedonia the Slavs are a majority. As in Kosovo an ethnic Albanian insurgent force appeared, prompting a heavy-handed response by the Slav-controlled military and government.

But Macedonia is a democracy, and Albanians have their own political parties; thanks to that and an aggressive diplomatic intervention by Western governments, a peace accord was signed in August. NATO troops, including some Americans, deployed to oversee an arms collection from the Albanian rebels, and last month the programme was concluded after the insurgents surrendered more than 3,400 weapons and announced the disbanding of their forces.

Some substantial parts of the peace pact remain to be implemented, which is why Pardew was in Skopje with his counterpart from the European Union, Francois Leotard. The Macedonian parliament must still pass a large package of constitutional reforms giving greater rights to Albanians, as well as an amnesty for the rebels. NATO is deploying another force of 1,000 for three months to protect international observers. Hard-liners on both sides are still making trouble.

On the whole, however, the process appears to be working. Such success wouldn’t be possible without the participation of Pardew and others of the Bush administration, which after a shaky start recognized the importance of continued U.S. engagement in the Balkans. —The Washington Post

Vietnam still haunts US?

By Sayeed Hasan Khan and Kurt Jacobsen

DOES Vietnam still haunt America? After routing Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 President Bush Sr. bragged that the “Vietnam syndrome” was a thing of the past, obliterated by the squeaky-clean computer game war that the Americans were led to believe was fought in the Gulf.

The ‘syndrome’ referred to a reluctance by the American public to support foreign military adventures where there is no obvious and compelling national interest reasons to do so. A sceptical citizenry did not want to waste their blood and treasure again. President Ronald Reagan, who giddily regarded Vietnam as a “noble cause,” likewise chafed at the way the Vietnam syndrome curbed America’s ability to flex its muscles wherever it pleased. This is only natural. Foreign policy elites do not relish having their freedom of action curtailed by anyone, least of all, their own citizens.

Nevertheless, Reagan, Bush and Clinton took care after Vietnam to intervene only against vastly overmatched foes and do so as much as possible through proxy forces, covert action and aerial assault. When America undertook ambitious but badly defined peacekeeping interventions in Lebanon and Somalia (“mission creep” run amok), and stirred violent resistance and even suicide bombers, leaders quickly pulled military forces out. In the early 1990s Colin Powell, then chief of the Joint Chiefs of staff, enunciated what came to be called the “Powell doctrine” whereby American forces would not be deployed abroad in risky situations without clear attainable objectives, an exit strategy and firm public support.

Yet it is supreme folly for anyone to mistake the Vietnam syndrome for an unwillingness to defend the country itself. In the 1960s one memorable bright banner unfurled at US demonstrations against the Vietnam war proclaimed: “We will stop bombing Vietnam when Ho Chi Minh stops bombing New York.” The point being that Viet Cong gunships were not in the habit of strafing Fifth Avenue boutiques.

But Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, by all available evidence, struck Manhattan and Washington. As a New York Times writer put it: “They are out to destroy us, our civilization, our way of life.” Melodramatic but true. So America will not stop until it exacts retribution, although allies are wary that it may not stop even then since policy makers always have hidden agendas.

Distrust is another Vietnam legacy that American policy makers must take into account. When America first moved into Vietnam, it was not viewed so suspiciously. After the Second World War America was widely believed to be on the side of Liberation struggles — even, for a while, by Ho Chi Minh. Eisenhower played a positive role in the 1956 Suez crisis when the British and the French desperately tried to control their former colonies. It was only by the end of the 1960s that the nuclear disarmament and Vietnam solidarity campaigns became more or less anti-American (in term of policy, not the people).

Now the US moves into Afghanistan carrying the heavy baggage of Nicaragua, Chile, unconditional support for Israel and decades of, to say the least, insensitive foreign policy. As the delicate coalition-building process today demonstrates, American leaders must tread more carefully than they did in Vietnam, and that is an improvement. Otherwise, ordinary people in the streets from Islamabad to Jakarta and Jeddah to Algiers may destabilize their own respective governments which support the US.

Non-communist Asia was not very interested in the fate of Vietnam but now the surrounding region is deeply implicated in volatile events. The Asian Pacific Economic Summit elicited soft but insistent demands for a rapid conclusion of the campaign against Afghanistan. An anti-war movement is crystallizing more quickly outside the US than it did in the 1960s.

Organizers of the recent peace march in London were surprised that the estimated 40 to 50 thousand marchers exceeded all expectations. Adding to these peace marches were many Muslims who have settled throughout Europe. The anti-WTO and globalization protest organizations form a ready nucleus for anti-war activities if the anti-terrorism war should get too gruesome and protracted and indiscriminate.

In the US the appalling attacks generated incandescent anger but the extent of this fury is uncertain and uneven. How much military activity can it justify? Most citizens want a prudent response that targets the right guys and does not embroil the US in a costly counter-insurgency struggle. President Bush speaks of a long twilight war to come but was it not John F. Kennedy who pledged that America would “bear any burden, pay any price” to win a shadowy cold war?

This kind of brave and open-ended talk does not play well any more, which is another legacy of the meatgrinder of Vietnam. The American left is as divided today as it was over Kosovo. Who wants to appear to defend merciless throat-slitting self-styled jihadis? Yet passions likely will ebb after bin Laden’s network is “neutralized” and the Taliban are overthrown. Americans will endure the sight of ‘body bags’ piling up only so long as a necessary purpose is served. A homegrown anti-war movement can spring up rapidly if some hard-liners in the Bush administration try to realize their dearest wish, which is to revive a cold war — only this time against elusive fundamentalists of their choosing all around the world. No questions please. It’s unpatriotic. Yet western leaders are caught in contradictions that verge on black comedy. Right-wingers badly want to place their countries on a war footing so as to render citizens suitably compliant and at the same time expect a blithe consumer-shopping spree to avert a deeper economic recession. Is this business as usual”?

After the World Trade Centre attacks, many of us watched a cable programme where a senior representative of a brokerage firm, which suffered many employee deaths, advised clients against running out in panic to buy low-yield savings bonds out of patriotic impulse! She said that her dead and missing colleagues “would have wanted it that way.”

In international politics too American elites want to restore ‘business as usual,’ which includes economic interests under the guise of national security. One searches American mainstream media in vain for reference to the gas and oil pipeline interests that Ahmed Rashid, the author of ‘Taliban — Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia’, dubs the “new Great Game” in the region. Politicians always strive to avoid questions about their motives and aims.

But would the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle in Cuba have occurred if the press had not played along with Kennedy’s demand for secrecy? Indeed, would the Vietnam nightmare have happened had the public had full access to the facts of the alleged Tonkin Gulf attacks in 1964? Many Americans of a certain age will recall how their national leaders lied to them about the Vietnam War.

Yet many US policy makers are acutely aware that public support is rock solid with respect to erasing bin Laden only, and that the dominoes (Muslim states) may fall hard against America anyway if it overplays its hand in this punitive enterprise. On the other hand, if it acts with due restraint through this crisis America stands to regain a great deal of credibility among people in the region. However, even this potential gain in goodwill can be nullified away by the unseemly, if realpolitik-driven, compromises America is striking with gross human rights violators, especially Russia and China.

Bush’s war lacks clear objectives

By Dr Adrian A. Husain

DESPITE our liberal elite’s slightly supercilious belief that positive or vital religious sentiment in Pakistan is confined to a minuscule proportion of its population or indeed the ‘unthinking’ rank and file, religion struck home, and with a vengeance, in Jacobabad and elsewhere, across the length and breadth of the country, on the eve of Colin Powell’s visit on October 15.

In a rare display of national solidarity, which had nothing to do with obscurantism and everything to do with enlightened faith, the commercial centres in all four provinces remained mostly closed while normal life ground to a virtual halt in response to the strike call given by our religio-political parties. The proposed ‘siege’ of Jacobabad airport did not, fortunately, materialize but, even so, a symbolic point, had been made: US troops are not welcome on Pakistan’s soil in the context of the on-going bombing, by the US and Britain, of our fellow Muslims in Afghanistan.

This should serve both as an example and a caution to those of us who choose to regard history as somehow linear and continuous when it is, in fact, often, and ironically, the reverse. The truth is that, whatever may have been intended by the premonitory pronouncements made after the terror attacks of September 11 to the effect that the world would never be quite the same again, the Pakistani consciousness would certainly appear to have registered subtle cleavage as of that day though, more particularly, since the military assault by American and British forces against Afghanistan, with its extensive collateral damage, began.

During this period, which has largely been a time of awakening as, indeed, in a way, even of a coming of age for us, certain inescapable facts have dawned on the people of Pakistan, relating, to a radical difference, such as we have perceived it to be, not just cultural or ideological but between ourselves and the western world. This is by no means to impute ‘civilisational’ value to either since that would be merely to admit bombast on the scene or to perpetuate a polemic which, given accidental civilization’s singularly unfortunate colonialist underpinnings, can only ultimately reflect unfavourably on the West.

Nor is it to assert that we have all somehow become soldiers of Islam overnight. For, clearly, we have not. The divisions between ‘secular’ and ‘fundamentalist’ still hold good and would do so more perceptibly still if put to the test, for instance, at the hustings. But it is most definitely to suggest that, partly because of moderate and fundamentalist Islamic belief having converged, if only for a moment, in history where our very survival or, at least, future seemed to be at stake, our polity has itself undergone a curious sort of sea-change.

We have, in other words, realized ourselves as Pakistani or as a people belonging to a distinct geographical region and identifiable by a certain given mix of races and cultures, an entire range of unique political and socio-economic conditions and, no less markedly, a specific and perfectly estimable faith.

This is something the Bush administration will necessarily have to take into account when dealing with this country if not today then in the future. Some measure of sophistication, some suggestion of an awareness of political or cultural niceties, are surely relevant when it comes to international diplomacy. So far, though, President Bush has shown himself to be a master only of his own obduracy. Nobody, at least in this part of the world, would have forgotten how he had not so long ago confronted us with his notoriously fraught, imperious ‘alternatives,’ the ‘Biblical’ “if you are not with us you are against us” ethic.

However, much water has passed under the bridge since then. Relentless enough, the bombing of Afghanistan has so far, besides inflicting largely tautologous damage on an already much-destroyed country and causing the tragically gratuitous loss of civilian life, inclusive of children and the elderly, failed to achieve any significant results.

The prime suspect of the terror attacks of September 11, Osama bin Laden, has been seen and heard on Doha’s Al-Jazeera TV issuing chilling warnings to America but is still at large. There have been reports, as yet unconfirmed, of shadowy shuttlings by key Taliban figures between Kandahar, Kabul and Islamabad, of the appearance of sudden, mysterious fissures in the official ‘student’ set-up and the imminent ouster of that tenacious if slightly excessive Muslim, Mulla Omar.

And while, senescent but obviously only too willing, former King Zahir Shah waits impatiently in his villa in Rome to head the proposed broad-based, multi-ethnic government of the future, in a new development, US commandos have also joined battle. So that the war has thus moved into its second strategic phase.

One wonders whether this war, so dear to President Bush’s heart and, at the same time, so utterly and painfully bizarre, is not possibly getting, owing to its lack of a clear or credible objective, bogged down in indefinition. Alternatively, it may, perhaps, simply be showing itself for what it really is: an impossibly extravagant, ill-conceived and malafide military adventure. Against this backdrop, the policy of appeasement currently being pursued by America may make more sense than its previous coerciveness. It would, to some extent, seem to have paid dividends, in that Pakistan is today cooperating with it to the degree that it can in America’s co-called ‘war on terror’. Nevertheless, no amount of appeasement, however gilt-edged, can atone for the senseless destruction of Afghan villages or make good what is, in effect, plain murder of innocent Afghan civilians.

The West’s offers of economic assistance are at best grimly ironic and bespeak a philosophy at once callow and cynical. Let us not entertain any illusions about the exact nature of the agenda behind the various relief packages on offer. They have all been proactively put together and will at the opportune moment, translate into Central Asian gas and oil.

Meanwhile, Mr Bush might care to consider what Thomas Paine, ideologue of the American Revolution and among the founding fathers of America, says on the subject of war. In the Rights of Man, Paine speaks of war as deriving from what he calls “the interest of governments as a distinct interest to that of nations” or, in other words, from an implicit appeal to raison d’etre. He further observes: “As war is the system of governments... the animosity which nations reciprocally entertain, it is nothing more than what the policy of their government excites, to keep up the spirit of the system.”

This is simply another way of saying that casus belli has to be manufactured when a state desires to go to war. Black Tuesday may not have been manufactured. However, it was, indubitably and (judging by the Security Council’s expeditious response to America in the shape of its resolution authorizing the use of force against terrorism) with all the esprit de corps in the world, overextended to justify making war. For there is, otherwise, no equivalence, as such — as there certainly was, for instance, between Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and George Bush Sr.’s war against Iraq — between the terror attacks of September 11 and the full-fledged, if one-sided, war now raging in Afghanistan.

It is interesting that Mr Bush should have been able, in the absence of a crucial definition of the term terrorism, to persuade the members of the Security Council as well as his coalition partners of the wisdom of his ‘mission.’ But it is a matter of some concern that, at least the thinking western world, especially Mr Blair, should not seem to have been a bit bothered by the profound conceptual and practical implications of the global counter-terrorism campaign.

The fact is that such an enterprise will only serve to usher in a global dispensation involving the curtailment of civil liberties. But where, then, does that leave the West’s cherished neo-liberal philosophy? Or its neo-social democracy? Will these not stand severely undermined? And what of pluralism, that cornerstone of democratic theory in the West? Will that not too, by dint of the demonization of the world’s Muslims stand eroded?

This mans that all the thought and effort, sweat and blood, the many decades of individual and collective national endeavour devoted to the creation of a freer and more inclusive western world since the 1960s onwards would, just to satisfy the obsessive mindset of a single man and his administration, have, at one stroke, literally gone up in smoke.

Economic stimulus

THE US president and Congress are at work on measures to stimulate the battered economy. The rule in doing so should be the one the president enunciated the other day. The package should be designed to do short-term good while avoiding the long-term harm of worsening the already grim federal fiscal outlook.

The long-term mismatch between foreseeable revenues and costs argues against the permanent corporate income and other tax cuts that several business groups, some leading congressional Republicans and a few administration officials have urged.

A significant cut in the corporate income tax, or easing of the alternative minimum tax that puts a floor under corporate payments, would be a major long-term drain on federal revenues.—The Washington Post