Sunday, November 4, 2007

A bully in an unipolar world

Oh Phaedrus, you do remember when you were among friends in a tavern about 15 years ago, when news filtered through about the collapse of the Soviet Union. While the rest exulted, it plunged you into depression.

An unipolar world would throw insurmountable problems as the only remaining super power set about being the law-maker for the world, you lamented.

The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) had by its own insane logic kept under check to an extent both major wars and adventurism by either the US or the Soviet Union. I must confess it didn’t stop the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan though, but the mujahideen with US support did put up a good fight, that eventually weakened the Soviet Union.

In the post cold war era, the world is less of a safe place. Terrorists abound. The cold logic is that when you can’t face up to the big bully, you either befriend him, become his lackey, or you attack the bully and his friends from behind, from a place you can’t be caught, by a new set of rules.

The bully will demand that you fight by his rules, by which he will quash you. But you live to fight another day.

Oh Phaedrus, you will complain that this leads to loss of innocent lives as happened in the infamous 9/11, and I do agree with you entirely. But the way out of this vicious and violent cycle is for the bully to understand that he is being a nuisance to people at large and to himself.

Your heart wept, you lost sleep as you saw the horrific deaths of innocent people roll out before your eyes on the TV. Every person dead was a heart-rending story – a child losing a father, or mother or brother, a family lose its bread winner. The terrorists are cowards you screamed, tears in your eyes.

Phaedrus, the cowards are also the mighty that misuse power, throw their weight around, hypocritically pursue their own self interest. A democratic Iraq is in our interest, they say. In the same breath they support the General in Pakistan, and refuse to cooperate with the democratically elected Hamas in Palestine.

Phaedrus, guess the rich and powerful among nations get to set and change the rules to their whim.

You did eventually come around to the idea that sometimes terrorism is a reaction, albeit sick, to repression, political or otherwise.

All countries have their freedom fighters who were in a sense terrorists, and today they are in the pantheon of their nations. Now a new generation, more dangerously, terrorize in the misguided belief that they are serving their god.

Caught between these interests are unfortunately innocent lives, including you and me.

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