Dr Hameedullah Zabuli
The Prussian Chancellor – Prince Otto Von Bismarck – once famously stated that politics is the art of compromise. This political maxim was not unknown to statesmen throughout history. Indeed all great statesmen have known that if total military victory is impossible then one must be willing to compromise to reach a political settlement. If great military commanders such as Napoleon Bonaparte did ultimately face complete ruin, it was precisely because they failed to see that in our vast and co-dependent world, no one nation or military can possibly defeat all the other societies of the human family.
The great human civilizations of the past – such as the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, continental Europe, and the Far East – all knew and observed this cardinal rule. The only exception in modern history of a nation flaunting this maxim has been that of the United States.
Ever since briefly entering the international fray after the Great War and then re-entering it proper in the Second World War, America has completely failed to understand this aspect of the art of politics. Granted that America finished that War in a state of paramount supremacy, yet it still thought through the prism of European imperialism. It failed to foresee the resurgence of nationalism throughout the colonized world and the subsequent struggles for independence.
Drunk with its military success in Western Europe and the Pacific, America sought to rule the world as a Global Policeman. This theory which forwards the notion that America should act as a counterbalance to all remaining international powers and right the wrongs of states and people across the globe has formed a backbone of U.S.’s international outlook.
America has blindly followed this doctrine without assessing its feasibility with changing ground realities. Yes this theory worked against the Soviet Union, because back then America was the prime military and economic powerhouse of the world. Yet much has changed since the days of the Cold War. The global economy has pivoted eastwards from Northern America and Western Europe towards Eastern Asia. The art of war has evolved from the total war of early twentieth century to asymmetric guerrilla tactics. For capitalist nations, privatization has reached such a decaying stage that war now costs far more than the perceived benefits. The internet has revolutionized the way information travels, nullifying the limitations of the Industrial Revolution and beckoning the Age of Information.
In such realities, America simply no longer enjoys the status of a sole superpower. Yet she continues to act with callous disregard for the realities of a new millennium. America’s tactics of a global policeman now more resemble the cowardly acts of a global assassin. America has unwittingly embraced a global crusade against any and all societies that rebels against her ideals. Yet lacking the economic and military might to thoroughly defeat all her self-proclaimed enemies, she has instead resorted to small war actions – such as assassinating leaders of the enemy, supporting the prevailing tides of the time, encouraging despotic powers to crush their mutual enemies, and condoning and rewarding brutal and inhumane treatment of insubordinate masses and individuals. All this, while appealing in the short-term, will have dangerous long term consequences for the global pariah.
One only has to look at the consequences of America’s War on Terror. For the past fifteen years America’s actions have swelled the ranks of their Jihadists, brutalized their tactics, justified their resistance, and spread their power and ideology so much that even America now dreads the thought of how this will end. To use a simile, she attacked a flame that has – with her help – blossomed into a wildfire.
America’ foolhardy tactics has facilitated, long defeated enemies to rise once again and challenge her preeminence. She now helplessly looks on as regional powers flex their muscles, dictating the rules and policies in their respective spheres. America’s contradictory and shortsighted interventions and policies all across the globe have created a geopolitical nightmare. She is steaming along with her War on Terror while juggling numerous other imperatives and navigating several crises. It doesn’t take much prudence to foresee an explosive and catastrophic recipe in the making.
It seems like America has lost sight of basic political realities and ought to be re-schooled in the basics of politics. The War on Terror (or if we were to call a spade a spade then the War on Islam) has quite frankly outlived its utility for America. Ever since entering the arena of the world players, America has felt comfortable seeing the world as black and white – a struggle of good versus evil. While this outlook blended snugly with the realities of the Cold War – where Communists and Capitalists battled for world dominance – after the collapse of the Soviet Union the American nation felt confused and bereft of purpose.
In order to re-find its sense of purpose America needed a new global enemy. An enemy that could justify America’s military footprint and defense spending. It conveniently found this ‘enemy’ in the Islamic revivalism. A cluster of infantile political movements – long oppressed and weakened by their respective repressive regimes and ripe for easy picking. This would have been a simple case of ‘nipping it in the bud’ – to use Kissinger’s favorite quote.
While we will not seek to present the benefits of choosing this enemy and its potential advantages suffice is to say that America was more than happy after the 2001 attacks to launch a full scale war against Islam. This carte blanche war on Islam has cost her dearly. It is time for the United States to rethink her priorities, measure her capabilities, and reformulate her foreign policy to reconstitute as a means to an end.