Combating Regional and Global Hegemony
Need for Strategic Consensus


Columnist Dr SM RAHMAN analysis the need for

developing a strategic consensus in order to

combat regional and global hegemony

Life’ said Hans Selye, a well-known psychiatrist, ‘is largely a process of adaptation, to which we exist. A perennial give-and-take has been going on between living matter and its inanimate surroundings, between one living being and another, eversince the dawn of life in the prehistoric oceans. The secret of health and happiness lies in successful adjustment to the ever-changing conditions of this globe, the penalties for failure in this great process of adaptation are disease and unhappiness.’1 What are penalties for individuals, are also penalties for nations and communities, who cannot adjust with each other. Maladjustment in international relations breed insecurity, tensions, and conflicts, which in turn spill over in acts of terror, armed interventions of varying magnitudes and ever-escalating casualties, in direct proportion to innovative skill man has acquired in annihilating mankind by acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The problem is inhumanity as Edward said puts it, ‘There is a course inhumanity to our public life that is deeply shocking. We have not paid sufficient attention to the liberal and humanistic education of our young peoples nor, alas, to the real priorities for our national institutions. The inhumanity of colonialism is replicated, indeed reproduced in our societies two generations after the end of colonialism. The distortions of Zionism have not been rectified by our various national movements, who have glorified raw power, a blind subservience to authority, and a truly frightening hatred for others into practices that are taking us back inexorably into the middle ages.2 In the name of what? Edward said poses the question: ‘Certainly not freedom, since we have far less now than we did fifty years ago. In the name of sovereignty and national unity? Certainly not: Arabs are more divided and penetrated than ever. Development and democracy? Of course not, what then? I am afraid to say it but the conclusion is inescapable: in the name of inhumanity. That is our problem, our inability collectively and individually to treat ourselves as human beings.’3

Chomsky, remarks: ‘It is a tribute to US education system that Americans estimate Vietnam deaths at a mere 100,000’...In Somalia recently, the US command did not count Somali casualties. Marine Lieutenant General Anthony Zinne, who commanded the US troops withdrawal, informed the press: ‘I am not counting bodies....I am not interested’. But according to Charles Maynes, editor of Foreign Policy: CIA officials privately concede the US military may have killed from 7000 to 10,000 Somalis, while losing 34 US soldiers.4

In Algeria, more than 60,000 innocent people have been killed since 1992, just because the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) which had obtained victory in the elections, and the results were not acceptable to the military government, on the lame excuse that the Islamists had contempt for democracy as a western import. ‘But the Algerian establishment’s suppression of the election results’, says Eqbal Ahmed, ‘a move welcomed by the Governments of France and the United States, was itself undemocratic and most undesirable both morally and politically.’5 He rightly commented: ‘Algeria’s authoritarian ruling establishment is not a credible defender of democracy. Moreover, the Islamic Front could not transform Algeria into a theocracy. If it had formed the government in 1992, the front would have wielded power partially at best secular forces will have remained in control of the state apparatus....Had the Algerian establishment been wiser than the Turkish army and permitted the Islamic Front to run its course in government, it is most likely to have stumbled miserably out of political prominence. Instead the Islamic Front was denied a nearly certain opportunity to fail. Jihad ensued.’6 What is intended to highlight is that what surfaces usually as fundamentalism or extremism are attempts to create political space. Suppressions and denials, have inherent propensity to bounce back, to aggressively reassert ‘identity’. It is the dominance and over-imposition of values, which is deeply resented.

There is no denying the fact that USA emerged as the only super power since the passing of the cold war. ‘Historians, who once warned about America’s decline now gush about an age of unrivalled dominance’, says William Drozdiak.7 This euphoria however, was only short lived. The author contends: ‘But over the past few months, irritation and anxiety have begun to over shadow sentiments of admiration among America’s closest allies. Across Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, convictions are growing that the accumulation of so much political, economic and cultural clout by the United States is breeding an arrogance that is unpleasant and possibly dangerous.’8 What has only recently manifested as bomb blasts in the premises of US Embassies in Tanzania and Nairobi are communications to that fact. Terrorism is the last resort of the marginalized and deprived segments of humanity. Yet the world pays attention to acts of terror, killings and casualties, but hardly the focus is on why is the terrorist drawn to that desperation? What impels him to do what he does? ‘The chorus of dismay with America’s overwhelming power has grown louder lately as the United States finds itself increasingly accused of bullying the rest of the world,’9 is the assessment of Drozdiak.

When the world was on the threshold of moving into the twentieth century, bidding adieu to the nineteenth, there were radiant hopes of inevitability of democracy, invincibility of progress and above all the decency of human nature and man’s ultimate glorification of living in a reign of reason and peace. The Stanford University, President David Starr Jordan, in his book The Call of the Twentieth Century, made a very optimistic prediction ‘The man of the Twentieth Century’, he said, ‘will be a hopeful man. He will love the world and the world will love him’.10 The prophecy, however, failed. ‘Looking back’, Schlesinger, says: We recall a century marked a good deal less by love than by hate, irrationality, and atrocity, one that for long dark passage inspired the gravest forebodings about the very survival of the human race. Democracy, striding confidently into the 1900s, found itself almost at once on the defensive. The great war, exposing the pretension that democracy would guarantee peace, shattered old structures of security and order and unleashed angry energies of revolution - revolution not for democracy but against it. Bolshevism in Russia, Fascism in Italy, Nazism, militarism in Japan all despised, denounced, and whatever they could, destroyed individual rights and the process of self-government.’11

The decades that followed saw the Great Depression, the Second World War, the nuclear holocaust let loose on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wars of liberation in Asia and Africa, Iran—Iraq war, the Gulf War, besides genocides, ethnic cleansings, wanton acts of terror and intra-state killings and carnages. According to an estimate between 1945 and 1989, there were 138 wars, resulting in nearly 23 million deaths. The Korean war alone took in its toll, 3 million casualties, and in the Vietnam war, 2 million. According to the Report on the Commission on Global Governance: All 138 wars were fought in the Third World and many were fuelled by weapons provided by the two major powers and their allies.12 The report also mentions: Between 1970 and the end of Cold War in 1989, weapons worth 168 billion were transferred to the Middle East, 65 billion worth to Africa, 61 billion to the far East, 50 billion to South Asia and 44 billion to Latin America. The Soviet Union and the United States accounted for 69 per cent of $388 billion total. The surfeit of weapons, especially small arms left over from this era is a key enabling factor in many conflicts, now scarring the world.13 Notwithstanding phenomenal success in science, technology, informatics and communication and relative betterment and affluence for the privileged world, this century remains the most terrible century in our history.

The power fixation which contributed to a dehumanicised sensibility of the twentieth century is not on the wane. Fan Yaw Teng writes: Despite the fact that the cold war is over, and the US has not decided who its next enemy is, the Pentagon will be spending $ 1.2 trillion for armaments over the next five years. With the end of the cold war, and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the world was supposed to be the beneficiary of a ‘peace-dividend’, with the United States as the sole remaining super power, the multi-billion arms race was supposed to be over. The billions wasted every year on armament, according to the promised logic of the so-called ‘New World Order’ would be diverted to homes, factories, hospitals, schools, highways and anti-poverty programmes in the United States and abroad.’14

Fan Yew Teng also contends: It was expected by many people including Americans that for the first time in almost half a century, the crying aspiration of ‘Swords into Plowshares’ would atleast find fulfilment. Not so. The Soviet bloc has dissolved, the cold war is dead and buried, but there has been no serious corresponding scaling down of the military arsenal of the west.15 The Military-Industrial-Complex, of which US President Eisenhower talked about, just before he retired ‘is still very much alive and kicking’ says the author.16 In the Rolling Stone magazine (6th January 1994) William Greider, the author of the book Who will tell the people is cited: whatever the explanation, the reality is that despite the end of the cold war, the government is not altering its priorities significantly. The United States will remain fully mobilized for war, and the home front investments that most everyone agrees are desperately needed will have to wait. How long? Perhaps five years, perhaps much longer.17

The most disturbing aspect is that nearly two trillion dollars have been spent on military black projects since the onset of the cold war - 100 million unaccountable dollars a day. It is estimated that Pentagon’s 100 billion weapons acquisition budget goes into the black projects. The CIA’s (Central Intelligence Agency) budget is increased with the Clinton administration.18 With such colossal black money, CIA is well equipped to destabilize or knock-out any government, anywhere in the world, which is not to USA’s liking. As per a report in the New Light of Myanmar daily, the public vioce of the Junta: ‘Copying the system of the oldest democracy countries is not suitable for Myanmar. We should not forget the disintegration of the Soviet Union. We should be aware of the fact that the CIA was behind the Tiananmen Squire crisis (without eloborating the accusation)19. The newspaper urged the diplomats to cease meddling in the military state’s internal affairs. This is only one example. More recently, the medicine plant in Khartoum bombed on August 20 in retaliation for massive terrorist explosion at two US embassies in East Africa is not a highly secretive, tightly secured military-industrial complex, as US intelligence officials said. An anonymous Pentagon official is also quoted as saying that CIA did not fully inform the administration that the plant produced under a contract with the United Nations a large quantity of the medicine in Sudan.20

The global paradigm as reflected in USA’s post-cold war behaviour, is indeed not too conducive to promoting peace. The Euro-American-centered view of the world is the major determinant of US foreign policy. Christopher, the ex-secretary of state said: ... ‘Same farsighted commitment to American leadership and engagement must guide our foreign policy today. The Soviet empire is gone. No great power views any other as an immediate military threat. And the triumph of democracy and free markets is transforming countries from Europe to Latin America and from Asia to Africa. We now have a remarkable opportunity to shape a world conducive to American interests and consistent with American values’.21 The overly ethnocentric view of the infallibility of American values is the root of the problem, compounded by the obsession to lead the world and shape it according to indigenous requirements of USA. It conjures up the image of the great Pavolovian experiment, in which the dog is conditioned to emit behaviour, the way the experimenter decides to shape it. In other words, there is no free will or choice for the animal. The desired behaviour is strengthened through the exigencies of reinforcements - the carrot and the stick. Sanctions imposed on nations fall in the latter category.

‘The American foreign policy, these days in one half part Sanctions, said Jonathan Power, ‘But sanction’, we say, ‘are as blunt an instrument as most weapon of war... trade sanction can function like a neutron bomb, destroying the economy, wrecking misery to general population but leaving the political establishment intact. This is what has happened in Iraq and ‘What was certainly happening in Haiti, until the general is capitulated to an American led occupation’22. Fidel Castro of Cuba has not been unseated, nor the ‘applecart has been upturned in Libya or Iran, although in all three cases, they’ve caused the regime serious economic difficulties and increased internal opposition.23

The balance-of-power paradigm has not contributed to peace in the world. During the past fifty one years, although the global powers did not confront against each other during the cold war period, the wars, mostly fought in Asia, entailed a loss of life to the tune of 7 million.24 A per UN Study (1989), 20 million casualties had occurred in 150 conflicts recorded since the end of Second World War, and these were through conventional weapons.25 The developing countries military purchases increased from $ 1,400 million in 1962 to $9000 million by 1981.26 The most gruesome killing of human beings has been through conventional weapons, but there is a considerable hullabaloo, about nuclear weapons, as these are considered taboo for non-nuclear nations. The monopolistic hold over nuclear arsenal will ensure that the conventional weapons, are supplied to the developing countries in abundance on which depends the prosperity and affluence of Arms producing countries. Without conflicts, arms production and supply will be in jeopardy and as such ‘intellectuals’ like Samuel Huntington, are commissioned by merchants of death, to create a market for their high-price-tagged-weapons, which due to tremendous technological innovations are increasingly becoming more and more deadly in terms of killing capabilities. It is in this context that civilizational conflict theory has to be viewed as a logical outcome of the kind of paradigm, which puts premium on power and control.

USA has renunciated the constructs like confrontation and containment from its geo-political parlance mainly as they have out-lived their utility after the ouster of Soviet Union from the global arena of power conflict. The policy of containment which worked to an extent in the case of the main rival of USA homely USSR, but when applied in the context of China as well as Iran it did not work and also created counter productive results. The emphasis has now shifted from geo-politics to geo-economics. In a recent write-up on the Fresh Face of American Power, it is said, ‘Just as containment defined Cold War US foreign policy, tomorrow’s watchword should be ‘integration’. It can be America’s mission to lead the process of foreign links among nations that are stronger than the forces that estrange them; to help commerce and capital flow freely; to offer all nations reasonable confidence that gains from free riding or rogue behaviour will not stand; and to pursue these goals wherever and whenever the chance arises’.27 Positive Engagement and Integrations are indeed laudable steps provided these are not used for the furtherance of gaining economic power — a new dimension of global war. Luttwak, Director of the Geo-Economics Project at the Centre for International Strategic Studies, maintains, ‘that there are no nice guys on the battlefield of Geo-Economics’. ‘In Geo-Economics as in war’, he says, ‘offensive weapons dominate of these, research and development force-fed with government support and taxpayers’ money is the most important. Just as in war, in which the artillery conquers territory by fire power, which the infantry can then occupy, the aim is to conquer the industrial territory of the future by achieving a decisive technological superiority.28 In other words the recipe is that just as power was attained by guns the new strategy is to pursue it by butter. The paradigm which is needed is not of exploitation but showing prosperity. Real-Politik must give way to a more human, ethnical and moral order. Since the mid-1970s, economic liberalism has become the predominant ideology. This has produced gains in productive efficiency but has also greatly strengthened the hand of the already powerful including certain national and international elites, as well as creditor countries and international financial institutions, at the expense of poorer groups and countries.

China, in contrast to USA is on the road to progress seeking goodwill and cooperation with all the nations of the world. The Chinese leadership declared in the communique of the fourth plenum of the Central Committee released on June 24, 1989, that the policies of the reform and opening up to the outside world will continue to be steadfastly carried out as before, and that China will never go back to the old closed door path.29 The communique also reaffirmed, that China’s independent self-reliant and peaceful foreign policy would not change and that China would on the basis of Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence continue to develop friendly relations with other countries.

Under the dynamic leadership of Deng Xiaoping the Chinese leaders did not assume the leadership of the international communist movement or take up the responsibilities of the former Soviet Union. In fact they were quite critical of the attempts by USA to impose its values and world view on other nations of the world. Humility and tolerance are the hallmark of their character. Despite serious differences with the west, they did not seek the path of confrontation. In other words, the Chinese leaders adopted a practical and pragmatic approach. They concentrated on the overall development of China, without which no concept of comprehensive national power was conceivable. It is futile to engage on ideological polemics as the real test of the success of any ideology they tthink lies in the fact that how much economic benefits accrue to the people. The Chinese leadership after Deng Xiaoping, the President Jiang Zemin pursued a very balanced and correct policy and China very soon recovered from the setback caused by the domestic turmoil in 1989. The economy started flourishing. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences indicated that China would become the world’s third largest economic power by 2010.30 Its Gross domestic Product (GDP) was expected to grow at an average annual rate of 9% between 1995 and 2000.

China, in nutshell is a model of growth in the present international scenario. It is pursuing a peaceful international environment to facilitate its economic modernization. China has all the patience and has no pretensions to be a world leader. In a talk with leading members of the Party Central Committee on September 4, 1989, Deng stated: in short, my views about the international situation can be summed up in three sentences. First, we should observe the situation coolly. Second, we should hold our ground, Third, we should act calmly. Do not be impatient, it is no good to be impatient. 31 He said, ‘If, while these countries (Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union) are in turmoil, China doubles its GNP in real terms for the second time, according to plan, that will be a success for socialism. If we have basically realized modernization by the middle of the next century, we shall have further reason to say that socialism has succeeded. Of course we should not boast’.32