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Home > Business > Columnists > Guest Column > R Ravimohan

Consequences of war

March 28, 2003

Why has America attacked Iraq? There are a few takers for the official version of disengaging weapons of mass destruction, given the spongy logic attached to it.

The attributions range from geo-political to economic imperative to cultural motivations. There are those that are convinced that the US needs to hedge against the possibility that the friendly regimes in the Middle East may turn hostile, due to internal uprising or a regime change.

Iraq is the most temperate Islamic country as far as the general population goes and therefore, makes the best ally for the US in the region. There are serious theories to suggest that Iraq and then Iran and a few others will be enjoined in the 'axis of terror' espoused by the US, which could be aimed at decapacitating the nuclear arsenal that could fall into the hands of people who are avowed opponents of the US.

Those that attribute the aggression to economics and greed, stake their theory that the US is after the Iraqi oil. Some variations suggest a broader interest in oil in the region. There are also credible theories about the threat to the US dollar hegemony, as more of the oil world is seen to shift to euro as the currency of choice, which poses a serious threat to the US dollar being continued as the universal reserve currency.

Therefore gaining control of a key member of the OPEC, which Iraq is, is seen to be a clever move to thwart such threat. The well known cultural tension between the Islamic supporters and the US is also given as a reason.

Some uncharitable sources draw comparison to the fable of the wolf and the lamb where the wolf kills because the lamb drank the water from a stream, which was reserved for its father.

So the Wolf Junior avenged his father's death, and of course incidentally had a hearty lunch with his wife on the lawns of his mansion! Lord Keynes said in 1930, "the day may not be far when everybody would be rich, when once more we will value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful.

But Beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; ....Avarice and usury and precaution must be our Gods for a little longer still." May be he is right too!

The opposition to this war is almost universal. Everyone has a theory in this context. Rather than pointless speculation on the causes, I wanted to explore the consequences, which forebode far reaching possibilities. Undoubtedly, the war has alienated the world against the US.

It has usurped the détente, and like Mahabharata, sanctioned any conceivable action in the so-far-constrained world of the civil society. It has fractured the so-far-impregnable NATO.

While the consequences of the alienation of the US is bad for it, both from a security and an economic aspect, the lifting of constraint that was in place these past decades has pushed the world into an unstable military paradigm.

Cultural, religious and ideological motivations will be important forces that will shape the new axis. However, the more potent gel will be military and economic energy. Thus I feel a new condition has been generated for realignment of the major world powers for both economic and strategic ends. I feel we are at a point of serious structural inflection again.

The world has been under the hegemony of the US after the collapse of the Soviet Union for a few decades. Most of this period was characterised by the compelling economic attraction that US held as a consumer of the world, and which subjugated most of the world's other legitimate concerns.

Now that the attraction has faded, several bullying and usurping aspects of the US's leadership role are getting recognised across the globe. The fraction in the NATO membership is surely a signal that the post World War unity is now lost.

The confluence of the economic interest of the oil consuming countries such as France, Germany, Japan, Russia, China and most of Asia, the anti-American-oil-rich-countries, the anti US factions from both Islamic and non Islamic nations and the military proposition of the unstable Middle East region (Israel-Palestine  issue, the Al Qaida issue, the undestructed nuclear arms of the erstwhile Soviet Union issue and now the axis-of-terror including Iraq issue), have reason to form an alignment against the US led coalition.

Although no clear 'Leader of the Opposition' as yet has emerged, there are quite a few candidates who seem now willing to throw their gauntlet in the ring. The US can offer economic and military cover to those that remain friends with it. Thus two new faces of world power are emerging.

What is terrifying is the geo-politics of the proposition I am making. The ranging interests are broadly divided on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. The Eurasian land mass versus the North Americans is the emerging world map.

The proposition does irreverently puncture many critical assemblages such as NATO, UN, and WTO and may even cause some tumultuous changes in the EU membership. However, the balance the new order brings with it, compels for a serious consideration.

Though currently struggling, the US economic power is far from a stage where it can be ignored, and has the potential to stage the smartest recovery amongst all the economic powers of the world. It can quickly regain its lost ground.

It has also enough powers aligned with it, including some of the regimes within the landmass of Eurasia and then the 'Cubanisque' Islands of UK!  The economic and military balance of these two sides augers well for a sustainable, mutually acceptable détente.

Where does that leave India? We have a chance to get into a strong position in the new world order. We have the opportunity to become an important sidekick to the US. We also have the choice of leading the foundation for a broad alternative front. What are the pros and cons of this mega choice for us? We have a large economy and one of two largest emerging market aggregates.

We have nuclear and military strengths. We can be an important ambassador for the cause of benign democracy, as opposed to the dominating democracy of the US. We speak English and can be considered part of the free western world, with acceptable influence on Asian and Islamic countries.

We indeed have some very important unique selling propositions that no other country can offer. What we need to first decide as a nation, is to figure our prioritisation between our economic, strategic and ideological goals. That prioritisation will yield different solutions in terms of the position we can gain from the repositioned world.

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