It is difficult not to get swayed away with the arguments of Prof Varun Sahni—an erudite and articulate scholar of international relations. Delivering a lecture on the topic “Hegemony, Globalisation and the Future of World Politics” on May 28, Prof Sahni talked of US dominance and its future.
“What does it mean to live in an international system in which military capabilities are acutely concentrated in the hands of a single state,” asked Prof Sahni on the occasion of Golden Jubilee celebrations of Political Science department. It is a fact that US’s military strength is far ahead and they have created “global centres of command”. You are right they have the wherewithal to remove regimes. But years later their chosen rulers need US protection, funding and subversion to function. They occupy lands but fail to hold it on. In Vietnam they lost because Vietcong were supported by Russia, US believed. Just as Russia is justified to think that the defeat in Afghanistan was largely due to the support of US and his allies to the then Mujhaideens.
“The military dominance of the US is not just based on higher military spending,” said Prof Sahni to the rapt audience in Gandhi Bhawan auditorium, “but on a qualitative gap – a technological chasm that no other power can at present conceivably span.” Yes, Professor you are right, the achievement of US in terms of technology are mind-boggling but equally numbing is their defeat at the hands of Afghans. This technology syndrome is ruining US, a fact admitted by many of its intellectuals. “We live in a society inebriated by technology,” wrote Leon Wieseltier, literary editor in ‘New Republic’, “and happily, even giddily governed by the values of utility, speed, efficiency, and convenience” (Perhaps Culture is Now the Counterculture, May 28, 2013). Wieseltier then writes that this technological mentality is now governing US’s worldview.
Colonial British marine power was legendary of its time. So is US air power today. The ‘global commands’ they have created are not going to prove helpful for them. It may become their weeklink in coming times. As has been demonstrated with attacks on their centres in Kenya and other places. It didn’t stop the attacks on World Trade Centre. It didn’t help them to win wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Particularly in Afghanistan, US is losing against a rag tag people, who cannot be called army in modern sense. All their technology and ‘global command’ has not deterred multinational fighters to inflict a crushing defeat to USA. The defeat in Afghanistan is not the defeat of one country but defeat of technology versus human capability and intellect. All the technologies and weaponry were of no use to hold Afghans under their rule. The colonial British lost its monopoly of superpower in a battle of equals. While America is losing war against people who don’t count anywhere.
You were spot on the effects of recession taking toll on the spending of US military funding but you skipped why recession happened? United States has excelled in technology but the very strength that its supporters glorify is not going to make it any stronger. After all you need vision, leaders, and leadership qualities. Here I am quoting in detail the words of William Deresiewicz: “What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders.” Deresiewicz was giving pep talk to United States Military Academy. You can google “Solitude and Leadership”.
Yes we know that most of the inventions are primarily made for the benefit of military purposes. Later they are innovated and given for public welfare. US wants to become perfect in their technologies on which they are rallying. What they are losing in the process is inspiration and leadership qualities. It were these qualities that made it possible for British to rule Indian subcontinent with only 50000 of its men. It were these qualities that made British not only to topple regimes but successful in policing the areas. US is nothing compared to the originality that the Colonial British had. Spain during its heady days discovered America. France give Liberty, Fraternity and Equality while British came up with their own justice and banking system and a language along with Spanish that are counted among the top six global languages in the world. America cloned that. It has not given any original idea in those terms. If England, as per your assertion, engineered US’s dominance because of its own profit then again one has to say that USA is cloned baby of British.
In your lecture you tried to create suspicion that every government in world may be run by USA. You projected US as a Big Brother State that watches every action of the world population—a kind of God among territorial States. If that had been the case it would not have been lured to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan and suffer a defeat that future historians will write as the greatest defeat of sophisticated armies by pseudo army. The fact is US is losing its awe which it had created two decades away. All the talk of its technology is not going to swoon people from the fact that Muslim countries are increasingly exerting themselves independent of it. You said China may be the next super power but the history of powers tell us that only those countries have ruled powerfully who had natural fortress. Britain and USA both had natural fortress in the form of sea on two sides. China has not got that. It has powerful neighbours flanked on its sides.
When the ideological forces of Communism were marching unchallenged Muslims stopped it. When the ‘Sun never sets on British Empire’ was marauding Afghanistan halted their march. The same is happening with US. Isn’t if fact that America is increasingly seeking Muslim world cooperation to keep its dominance intact. Isn’t a fact also that the great challenge posed to US is by Muslims? See where have they lost the war: Somalia, Iraq and now Afghanistan. How much technological weaponry they had? A question you were not able to answer when a gentleman posed you on the repercussion of defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. The future of world politics seems set to be dominated by religion.
Next wars will be fought on the basis of religion and USA will have to take greater blame for it. After all its arms—media, intellectuals and propagandists created a culture where Muslims had at every inch give their identity. As a result they had to prove a point. In proving that point they are taking recourse to Islam. Again it was possible because USA had no visionary to see its repercussions. They have long ago reached to apotheosis. “What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision,” Deresiewicz told United States Military Academy.
You talked of two ways to control population: force or ideological resources. The latter is preferred as it controls the behaviour of vast population and is cheap compared to military tactics. Your speech seemed an apt demonstration of that.
(Inam ul Rehman is a failed journalist)