back to issue

SAFELY ensconced in the comfortable environs of the Center of Security Policy in Washington D.C. protected by Patriot Laws, Alex Alexiev has mutilated his vision into a mass of paranoid twists and turns. Let me administer him a dose of his own medicine: ‘Beware of what you imagine, because you may get it.’

In his essay ‘Rogue State or Indispensable Nation’, Seminar, September 2003, Alexiev sets the tone by making moderate noises, giving space to the fears of the critics of Empire, gradually deviating into a history of terrorism, making forays into the root cause, Wahabism, and finally landing with a thud into the present, warning of unimaginable consequences if the United States of America is pushed out of its bloody adventurism into its fortress.

Alex Alexiev has launched on this crusade not because of global concerns or a recent conversion to humanism. He has been trained to think and analyze in a straightjacketed manner within fixed paradigms while getting handsomely paid to advance his ‘elegant’ theories. For him and other ideologues of his dispensation, 9/11 is an event which is ‘world-historical’. He even drags in Hegel to lend philosophical weight.

Indian and scores of other poor and not so poor countries routinely witness events of death and destruction. The despicable difference is we do not value our lives on the same scale and tend to forget our losses with horrendous routine. Our deaths are pathetic and unassuming among yearly floods, predictable droughts, police violence on peaceful protests and the humungous follies of unchecked dictators like Saddam Hussein, Myanmar’s military rulers and Charles Taylor.

Compared to the daily destruction and death, 9/11 was spectacularly successful in shaking the entire world out of its apathy. The gullible poor in the Third World, the manipulating world media, and the spin-doctors of the western governments may be pardoned for making it an event full of political pyrotechnics. But can we do the same to policy researchers, political thinkers and strategic advisers who collectively lend their shoulders to the wheel of the American war machine?

Alexiev’s essay is garbed in well-argued premises and makes staccato moves towards a credible culmination. Soon thereafter the veil of sobriety starts to slip, giving us a peep into his dark motives. He writes, ‘Very simply, states that aid and abet, let alone sponsor terrorist groups or supply them with WMD, cannot expect to have their national or territorial sovereignty respected and will be subject to unilateral military intervention by threatened nations.’ Saddam Hussein may have razed an Iraq many times over, but in their self-appointed ‘mission of peace’, the American and the British soldiers managed to turn upside down every can, drum and trunk they could get hold of in a so far unsuccessful search for WMDs.

The world is now tired of false noises, however modulated they may appear in academic tomes. The fact that Iraq could manufacture chemical or biological weapons in the past, the Taliban could hoard missiles and rocket launchers, Al-Qaeda could have a free run of the rocky terrain of Afghanistan, and the Pakistani terrorists could enter into Indian Kashmir in an unbroken queue, was only due to the benign permission, active aid and connivance of the American masters. If the Pentagon says ‘NO’ then no terrorists worth his jihad can hope to acquire WMD or dream of using it.

The sobriety of the academic research apart, the world has not forgotten the childish glee of the coalition forces and the western media in repeatedly parroting the discovery of suspicious looking drums containing chemical weapons or Umm Qasar being secured. Alexiev finds the criticism of US foreign policy specious, specially with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dismissing it simply as perceived injustice. He thinks this is the standard propaganda line of Arab governments uncritically bought by the left alongwith more than a few western governments and much of the developing world.

There are two possible responses to this deadly concerned defence of the lethal US policy.One is that the left, some western governments, the Arab states and much of the developing world add up to a large part of humanity. When all of them nurse serious grievances about US misdirection then surely there is need for a review and rethinking. But the author thinks differently. He clubs all these countries together, describing them as a mere rag-tag collection of governments opposed to imperial America.

The second response to Alexiev’s view is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not merely an imaginary one with opposing parties hurling grave accusations at each other. Israel and Palestine have been engaged in a bloody combat for decades resulting in a daily loss of lives and property. Nor is the tragedy confined to the region. Terrorism, violent uprisings and revengeful acts have spread all over the world. Once a person or a group of persons are ready to sacrifice their lives, they can commit any act of terror.

The arrogance of imperial America has induced deadly stupidity into its thinkers. Instead of zeroing in on the root cause of terrorism in the Israeli government’s brutality and thereby understanding terrorism as reflective of a people pushed to the wall, Alexiev looks elsewhere in history, locating its origin in the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, and its intolerance towards other sects of Muslims such as Sufis and Barelvis. This is a ridiculous argument, as Muslims all over the world and the citizens of Asia and Africa, do not conduct their lives according to the dictates of a few firebrand preachers. Sufis were never opposed in India and elsewhere, while Barelvis more faced benign neglect rather than persecution. Even though the Bahais and the Ahmadis are threatened in Islamic theocratic states, they have prospered in other Muslim communities, including India.

A little later, Alexiev accuses the Deobandi creed in India and Pakistan of being over-radicalized and spawning a jehadist ideology par excellence. True the Deobandi scholars in Pakistan ran madrasas along the Afghanistan border with Saudi money and American arms. Even eminent diplomat Christina Rocca is widely accused of arming the Taliban and the Pakistan madrasas during the Soviet war when she served in the CIA. But by no stretch of imagination does anyone accuse her of following the Deobandi creed. The Deoband school in India not only earned laurels for sending its scholars to fight for freedom against the British raj but has also introduced secular education and professional courses for religious scholars in its present-day curriculum. So much for the blurred security vision and the crooked lenses of the thinkers who direct politicians into the battlefield.

Alex Alexiev’s scholarship is comprised of a contorted vision, stubbornly held beliefs and an audacity that exasperates the reader. He even has the temerity to conclude that only the United States has the capability to carry out pre-emptive operations. Even though the United Nations, NATO and other nations appear helpless in this regard, it is they who have to step in at the peace-keeping stage. It is dangerous to presume that all non-Americans have bent knees, rickety bones and bowed backs. If a starving Somalia can stand up to the well-fed American forces, other nations could also show some gumption to say no.

The essay paints an extremely grim picture of the world in the event that America steps back into its fortress. He is afraid that the moment America retreats, Saddam might re-grab power in Baghdad and start manufacturing WMD, that other rich but weak states like Kuwait, Qatar and UAE will do the same, the Taliban will regain power and that the Al-Qaeda, ISI and the terrorists will reign supreme in Pakistan and Central Asia and waste no time in making WMDs and hurling nukes at each other. He also brings in the Lashkar-e-taiba and Hamas for good measure. To quote Alexiev, ‘Absent America, there is nobody that can prevent this grim scenario from happening.’ Alex Alexiev and thinkers of his genre mistake belligerence for scholarship. Even with America spread all over the world unprecedented terrorism is happening, much of it perpetrated by the empire itself.

Nahid Mehmood

Udaipur, Rajasthan