The intellectual industry of wars
Has the world changed in qualitative terms since, as the frontier that drew the line between the two worlds is no more? When the Berlin wall collapsed it was being widely believed that the dark prospect of global confrontation between the two superpowers was not necessary and hence over. The war was thought to be not necessary because the bone of contention, the ideological divide between communism and capitalism, had melted away with the people of the Soviet Russia and, along with them, the people of Eastern Europe renouncing their seventy years' experimentation with the new social order. The other important reason, it was assumed, that made any global war pointless was that what remained of the erstwhile Soviet Russia after its collapse was a second rate power, and certainly not a superpower. The global distribution of power switched from bipolar to a unipolar dispensation. What is more, with the Eastern Europe re-embracing capitalism, a new era of uninterrupted peace was being promised by the champions of North Atlantic bloc peaceniks. To them capitalism and democracy were mutually exchangeable terms. What is then the need for war in an era of economic and ideological homogeneity? And is it not also true that with such prospect of peace just round the corner, even an unmitigated cynic cannot be but converted to optimism, let alone the advocates of historical progressivism like E. H. Carr who said:
"The current wave of scepticism and despair, which looks to nothing but destruction and decay, and dismisses as absurd any belief in progress or any prospect of a further advance by the human race, is a form of elitism"-(What is History?
But it would have been a different story had Carr lived to witness the fall of Soviet Russia, which would certainly have pained him greatly
But the prospect of uninterrupted peace and prosperity that was expected in the wake of the big socialist crunch (or the dawn of a capitalist Big Bang!) did not after all materialise. Hardly the body of Soviet communism was laid to rest when the veneer of solidarity that bound the capitalistic West together began to show signs of crack. As there was no mortal threat to the existence of capitalism, caste war within the household of capitalism began. Many former friends turned out to be expendable. Some even turned into outright enemies overnight. For now it was time to give more attention to the more equals among the former equals within anti-Communist camps and blocs.
To make the West and its civilisation safe new theorists now came along justifying the need for a global purge. Charlatans masquerading as political philosophers, especially those like Professor Huntington and their ilk, discovered a new cultural divide bifurcating the world. That included Islam and Confucianism, that in other words is, the Orient. Whatever West had achieved during its long march from the Enlightenment till the 'liberation of the Eastern Europe' would be lost if another war was not started forthwith. Who discovered this yet unknown danger to civilisation? A new crop of intellectuals, or what Carr would have called, a new elite. It was not always the generals or the unthinking politicians who whipped up the psychosocial conditions of war in the past, even in antiquity. In every age there was always a group of intellectuals or ideologues whose main job was to invent the need for pre-emptive campaigns or wars to keep the enemies of the kings and the vested class at bay. The vast army of the clerics and their institutions in the medieval ages would thus from time to time carry out campaigns to purge the enemies of God and His representatives, the kings. Every student of medieval Europe knows the consequences of such religio-cultural wars. There was no dearth of such pro-status quo intellectual and cultural elite in any time in human history. Not even in the remote past Europe witnessed such officials philosophers and scholars who goaded the politicians and generals into various kinds of wars and purging. Hitler's assumption of the role of the protector of the Aryan race triggered such anti-Semitic purging against the Jews. The claim to purity or excellence of a particular ruling class, its values and beliefs is what constitutes the main theme of the theoretical prescription in support of all these social purging, cleansing or wars. The Stalinist political purging in the former Soviet Union, the cultural revolutions in Maoist China, anti-Red hysteria of McArthy in USA, or the post-putsch anti-Communist purging in Suharto's Indonesia, or the pro-Serb ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the extremism of the mullahs in Iran or the Afghans under the Talebans have identical roots. It is the exclusive right of a particular group of social elite, who wants to perpetuate its state of exclusiveness, its rights to the resources of the state and society, that is all about this protectionist theories and slogans. All the kings, the generals, the presidents, prime ministers and their colleagues, the administrative mandarins of the modern state-- the bureaucrats, the big business and even the clerics belong to this group. They have a huge stake in perpetuating their reign in society. So, there will never be any dearth of theoretical and philosophical justifications to begin a new campaign, against any newly discovered old enemies, to protect the gems of civilisation!
Is it then any surprise that fundamentalism, terrorism and cults of every colour and description now militate against the gains of Western capitalism and democracy? The Cold War spectre of nuclear doom has now again raised its head garbed in a new outfit. Religious extremism and terrorism. As the Soviets and their social system were demonised for over a period of seven decades, this new enemy of western capitalism and their democracy has also to be demonised in a similar vein. But there is one exception to this new enemy and the war against it. The Soviet system had a definite, a physical boundary. But this new threat to the existing global order determined by the western capitalism or its democracy has no definite, physical border. It is an invisible enemy. When the terrorists struck the World Trade Centre on the 11th of September in 2001 the frontier of the war was then in USA, more particularly in New York and in Washington. But the enemy was actually fought in Afghanistan. So this new enemy against the western economic system and its values does not live like the Cold War enemies beyond any definite border. It is everywhere. So strike it wherever it is suspected to be. And that is not a problem at the dawn of this new millennium when a singular superpower is protecting western civilisation. The archaic concept of national sovereignty or national boundary, which was very sacrosanct even a few years back till the end of Cold War, is now an anachronism, a shibboleth. The champions of western values are now not so fussy like before about other peoples' national sovereignty or national boundary. Small wonder they invade they can invade Afghanistan in pursuit of the terrorists and tear that country apart attack Iraq and dislodge the government of Saddam Hussain there and threaten to do the same elsewhere. The entire civilised world has been cringing before this new imperial might and its dictates, notwithstanding that the very values that stand for the civilisation the western democracies claim they are protecting by means of this war are being trampled under foot in the process.
What then is the prospect of peace or progress under the post-Cold War, singular superpower dispensation? Will the war against terror ever end to make peace and progress possible? What kind of peace or progress that may be?
The way the West is behaving is symptomatic of a giant in its death throes. It has to be in constant war with the surrounding world, and also with itself, to survive. But then what will remain after this great struggle? The yet incorrigible optimists, those who nurture undying love for progress in their hearts may have the answer.