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|October 29, 2001||
Is Bush cunning or a simpleton?
What was common to Dr Henry Kissinger and Indira Gandhi? The creation of problems to solve existing problems.
By the late Sixties, Indira Gandhi was overjoyed upon finding the perfect political solution -- create a counterbalance in the form of political trouble to pull the carpet from beneath the feet of a regional politician presumed guilty of 'insubordination.' The resulting tension would take up the latter's time and prevent him from becoming a thorn in Indira Gandhi's feet.
And thus began the saga of cultivating V C Shukla in Madhya Pradesh to counter D P Mishra; Devraj Urs to unseat an increasingly belligerent S Nijalingappa, besides machinations in other states. The system worked fine until she 'adopted' Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Punjab. Like the legendary jinn that destroyed the master after destroying the master's enemies, Bhindranwale destroyed the Akali Dal, the Congress and Indira Gandhi herself.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dr Henry Kissinger, US secretary of state, came up with the most Machiavellian of solutions to counter the burgeoning influence of the then Soviet Union. 'Build Beijing to counter the Kremlin from within the communist world,' he decided, beginning the American love affair with mainland China. The Chinese invasion of Tibet was quickly forgotten and overlooking human rights abuses in China become de rigeur.
Upon the destruction of the Soviet empire in 1991, America congratulated itself as being the world's 'sole superpower' till it stumbled upon China's potential to challenge the status quo. With technological capital derived initially from the Americans, China possessed the necessary wherewithal to challenge the US militarily. With the takeover of Hong Kong in 1997, the Chinese, it is believed, had the necessary economic capital to fund any military adventures.
The moral of the stories is the same: Create a problem to resolve an existing problem now and wait for the created problem to boomerang on you. Indira Gandhi and Kissinger may have had cunning all right, but sorely lacked foresight.
This phenomenon has seriously affected various American governments in the recent past. Smarting under the insults inflicted on the US by Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 1970s, a very pliable Jimmy Carter built Iraq's seemingly innocuous Saddam Hussein into a regional power. When Khomeini died in 1989, Saddam replaced him as the biggest nuisance in West Asia. Indeed, he may singly take credit for bringing down George Bush, Sr, as president in the 1992 US election.
Unfortunately, his son, George W Bush, Jr, seems to be incapable of reading the writing on the wall. He and his cohorts seem to have decided that the best way of destroying the Taleban would be to cultivate the other bunch of brigands successfully operating in Afghanistan, namely the Northern Alliance.
The Northern Alliance consists of a bunch of brigands whose crimes obscure anything done by the Taleban. Indeed, the Taleban's being the lesser of the evils was what facilitated its victory in the mid-nineties.
Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have long recognised the propensity of the Northern Alliance to commit unimaginably sadistic crimes on 'enemies' unlucky enough to fall into their hands. 'Allied' by nothing more than a hatred of the Taleban, the Alliance thugs have been known to scalp a 17-year-old youth in front of the whole village before machine-gunning all men, not to mention boiling victims live in water.
With Bush playing conductor, the American media increasingly refers to the alliance as 'the brave, under-resourced youth ferociously fighting the Taleban.' What they choose to ignore is that the Taleban also consists of idealistic if ferocious fighters determined to rid Afghanistan of all perceived evil. The ferocity became a source of wonderment and the Taleban were compared to Robin Hood until the 'merry men of the Taleban' turned their attention on American targets.
While Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld insists that the US does not endorse the Alliance, but is exploring ways of using their strengths, the bottom line is that such efforts will only result in more madness being manufactured. The Northern Alliance can be expected to counter any moves to restore power to the erstwhile Afghan royal family even more ferociously than the Taleban, and interpret the Quran so literally as to make the Taleban seem moderate.
Any such hare-brained schemes to use the Northern Alliance will only result in more investment in the heroin trade, the present source of sustenance for the Alliance, more terror in Kashmir and other places in Asia with Muslim majorities and imagined atrocities (Southern Thailand being a potential spot). Unless there is tight monitoring of how the Afghani political situation evolves, the US will remain a helpless witness to the diffusion of terror and damage to its interests on its own soil.
The serene confidence placed in the hordes of the now deceased Ahmed Shah Masood by the US will be sorely tested in winter. With blizzards in northern Afghanistan throughout winter, the US will have no way of supplying any realistic assistance to the Alliance. While Osama bin Laden can supervise terror from his hideout, there is little the US can do during the upcoming months besides twiddle thumbs and assist refugees fleeing increasingly inhospitable conditions.
The US should do itself a great favour by calling off the latest of its Rambo-like jaunts, and indirectly helping in the spread of terror. The winter months may be best used in defining alternative strategies to contain the Taleban and the Northern Alliance.
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