Reflections on the Impending War

This is a turning point in American history. The course of world events for the next few decades will depend to a large extent on how this explosive situation is handled.

True, there is the possibility that the most awesome weapons are in the secret hands of a Stalinesque dictator, and in the next few years he could well be in a position to blackmail and terrorize the world.

But even if he is now subdued and replaced by force, and even if the vast majority of the Iraqi people were to celebrate with jubilance the overthrow of a so-called leader who has caused so much harm and grief to his own people, the embers of a violent intrusion with ruthless might of a superpower will spread and ignite further the simmering hate and resentment towards the United States that exists in many regions of the world today.

The War on Terrorism is likely to persist for many years, flaring up here and there to cause unimaginable anguish to countless innocent people all over the world.

Perhaps the time has come to reconsider American foreign policy from entirely new perspectives. The old mode has surely not been very successful when it comes to endearing this most powerful, most wealthy, most creative, and most free nation to the rest of the world.

In spite of the enormous goodwill for America across the globe, much of it is suffocated by American military assertion in every corner of the world. The presence of U.S. armed personnel on their soil creates a knee-jerk resentment in the heart and soul of countless people, even in countries part of whose defense budget is paid for by the American taxpayer. American military presnce in distant lands is a vestige of the communist phobia which tormented the American psyche during the unhappy cold-war decades. We need to ease out of this intrusive and anacrhonistic protective shield.

Perhaps the time has come to re-think this policing-and-protecting-the-world paradigm, to explore ways in which American financial, technological, and creative strengths can be better utilized toward the solution of humanitarian and ecological problems. It is not clear that we need men and women in uniform in the Persian gulf to buy oil at a fair price from the Arab world. After all, we buy cheese from Holland , wine from France , oil from Venezuela , and practically every household commodity from China without stationing our army and navy in all these countries. It should not be impossible to get the hell out of Arab lands, give the Palestinians their legitimate due, and let Japan , China , South Korea and Russia worry about North Korean nuclear bombs.

In most instances, the actions of political terrorists spring from understandable anger, extreme frustration, and a sense of impotence, rather than genetic malice or insane religious bigotry. It would be wise, appropriate, and fruitful to listen with sympathy to the leaders of all anti-American terrorist groups, and exert every iota of goodwill and influence we can muster to respond to their legitimate demands. Indeed, it is not clear that any other approach will bring about a long range eradication of some of the hate-and-hurt-America attitude which is simmering in many parts of the world.

Thus far the Gandhian principle of non-violence has been applied only by the weak to transform the strong. Now the United States has an opportunity to test it out in a reverse situation: The strong nation of America can transform the weaker groups by the use of non-violence.

 

V. V. Raman

January 18, 2003