BOOK REVIEW

Strategy for global hegemony

THE WAR ON TERROR— Reordering The World: Ninan Koshy; Leftword Books, 12, Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi-110001.

Rs. 125.

THE CENTRAL theme that runs through Ninan Koshy's book is that it is an imperialist war, one that is specifically designed to secure the "economic and strategic interests of the United States."

In his view, the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington provided a ready justification to launch a systematic campaign, the larger aim of which is the expansion of the American empire.

The author suggests that September 11 was, to use the distinction that E.H. Carr draws in What Is History, is only the immediate or precipitating cause for the war on terror. In other words, it is but a link in a chain of causality that goes back much longer — to the end of the Cold War, the first war against Iraq and the first stirrings of U.S. unilateralism. "The U.S. government had planned the (Afghanistan) war well in advance, but the shock of September 11 made it politically feasible, by stupefying political opinion at home and giving Washington the essential leverage on reluctant allies abroad," he writes. As a corollary of this view, he hints that September 11 could have been a pre-emptive strike against the U.S., referring approvingly, or at least uncritically, to an article in The Guardian as having made this "important observation".

The main thesis and some of his derivations are not altogether novel and, for the most part, Koshy's book reiterates, even reinforces, what has now become a familiar critique of American foreign policy. One may or may not agree with him, but where the book really scores is in its scrupulous attempt to analyse statements and examine developments in order to buttress the larger claims.

There is a short but particularly interesting chapter titled "Armies and Pipelines" that deals with, among other things, the U.S. efforts to gain access to the massive oil and gas deposits in Central Asia.

India and Pakistan, both allies in the war against terror, are the subject of another chapter in which Koshy is critical of New Delhi's foreign policy which he sees as almost obsequious in its deference to U.S. interest and which he suggests is aimed towards seeking "a prominent regional role in the new imperial world order." One can only hazard a guess about whether developments which followed the publication of the book — such as the parliamentary resolution critical of U.S invasion of Iraq or India's refusal to send troops to that beleaguered country — would have led Koshy to modify his position somewhat. Somehow, one doesn't think so.

In his broadsides against the U.S. and its attempts to use the war on terror to create a new international order, Koshy stays clear from the attendant trap: sympathising, even if only by implication, with the terrorists.

He draws a correct and valuable distinction between movements that have resorted to selective acts of violence for specific political or social purposes and the new terrorism, which targets innocent people indiscriminately to create "unthinking terror". Anti-American critiques of this nature often draw simplistic causal chains between September 11 and the U.S policy in the Middle-East. Or make the mistake of portraying Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar as if they are warriors for the Palestinan cause or as those who nurse a deep sense of political victimhood.

At the same time, he draws attention to the truth that countries are looking at the terrorism phenomenon through the jaundiced eyes of their own national interests and that the U.S., despite the hype and rhetoric of fighting a moral battle against terror, is doing much the same thing.

MUKUND PADMANABHAN

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