Dead Ideas: Girilal Jain

If the “new world order” of the flighty imagination of Mr Bush was a non-starter, his concept of “collective security” outside of well-defined alliance systems may also be consigned to the dust-bin. Indeed, the irony of it all is that the bloated rhetoric of both the “new world order” and the UN-supervised “collective se­curity” system were products of the same strange event, Saddam Hussein’s refusal to take various available opportunities to with­draw from Kuwait when it should have been obvious to him that his reading of US “signals” had turned out to be mistaken and that, in place of the US acquies­cence he had anticipated, he was faced with US determination to punish him for his ‘effrontery’.

The talk of a “new world or­der” was a joke from the very start in view not only of Ameri­ca’s own economic troubles, as reflected in the budget deficit (around $300 billion), trade defi­cit (around $400 billion) and debt (around $4 trillion), and other problems but also of the impend­ing collapse of the Soviet system. The bankruptcy of the Commu­nist system was patent by 1990 even if it was possible to “hope against hope” that the union would survive in some drastically modified form. And one did not need to be a leader of the most powerful country in history in possession of unmatched sources of information to recognise that the disintegration of the Soviet system would unleash forces of chaos of unknown intensity and proportions. Caution would have been in order in Washington. That, however, is not an Ameri­can “weakness”.

As it happens, the concept of a UN-supervised “collective securi­ty” system is also the product of the same almost limitless Ameri­can capacity for “optimism”. Af­ter all, it was a leading American who popularised the view that a world government was both nec­essary and possible, though it must also be admitted that the would-be first prime minister of Independent India too bought this extraordinary proposition. Even so, it was truly “remark­able” for an occupant of the White House to believe that the amorphous body called the UN could enforce “collective securi­ty”. Even if that was no more than a cover for trying to convert the UN into a US instrument, the choice of the Gulf as the place to begin the experiment was inept. Failure was certain; it has duly materialised.

The news is not that President Saddam Hussein has survived. For that was not seriously in ques­tion once the war was over with him in office. The news is that the US has no viable Iraq policy. The show and use of force by Mr Bush in his last weeks in the White House to deal with provocations deliberately staged by Saddam Hussein only helped underline this reality. His actions, straight out of Hollywood westerns, did not constitute policy. At best, they were an ad hoc response. They did not terrorise Saddam Hussein who was obviously prepared for the limited bombing raids; they terrorised his Arab allies and friends already fearful of their people and they made it known to Washington. An article entitled “The lion and the wolf’ in the New Statesman & Society (Janu­ary 22) provides interesting quo­tations from the Arab press.

Issues are again being mixed up. Israel’s action in expelling 415 Palestinians suspected of being members and supporters of the terrorist organisation Hamas responsible for kidnapping, kill­ing and attacking Israeli police­men, however useful to Arabs for propaganda purposes, is not at the heart of the confusion and un­certainty in the Gulf. Iran’s acqui­sition of submarines and other so­phisticated weapons, occupation of disputed islands, and stepped up support for fundamentalist and terrorist organisations oper­ating in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others, are.

Iraq cannot possibly provide the answer to Iranian moves. It cannot match Iran’s military prowess unless at least the sanc­tions are lifted; even in that un­likely event, it cannot cancel out Iranian support to fundamental­ists. But sanctions, whatever the reasons for their continuance, certainly facilitate Teheran’s task in emerging as the dominant local power in the region. Iraq’s dis­memberment could clinch the is­sue in Iran’s favour.

Economic Times, 19 February 1993

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