Monday 6 February 2012

Time and History

I originally only planned to publish my recent article on the decline of American power contrasted with the rise of China’s (How Are the Mighty Fallen, 30 January) on BrooWaha. I published it here because the editorial process there was log jammed for several days. Now it has appeared there it elicited an interesting response from a fellow contributor, one who lives in India. I think my own detailed reply, slightly modified, deserves to stand here on its own.

Greatness and power have nothing at all to do with freedom and human rights. The Roman state survived for centuries as a slave power and rapacious conqueror. China has never enjoyed a full democratic existence in the sense that you and I would understand the concept. Even before the Communist takeover it was ruled, when it was ruled at all, by dictators, warlords and freebooters of one kind or another in the period after the revolution of 1911, which overthrew the last imperial dynasty.

I’m sorry, I complete disagree with you; the present government of China shows little in the way of communist orthodoxy; it shows not the least interest in exporting its brand of high holiday politics, unlike its economic imperialism. Mao would simply not recognise the China that has emerged after his death. The Chinese government is simply an oligarchy, interested in the perpetuation of its power, a power over which Marxism is draped like a fig leaf. Their brand of realpolitik owes far more to Machiavelli than Marx, more to The Prince than to The Communist Manifesto.

A nation survives by conserving its power, not wasting it. Yes, governments have a responsibility to ensure the security of the land. But America under George W Bush did not contain a threat; it simply made it worse. Where was the logic in invading Iraq, a country with a secular government, a country with no connection to terrorism, a country actively opposed to Al-Qaeda? Where was the logic in invading a country that had effectively been neutralised after the First Gulf War, and neutralised to the advantage of the West?

There are so many things I could say about this disaster, things I have said previously. Not only was the Al-Qaeda genie let out of the bottle, not only was the power of Iran immeasurably increased, but the aftermath of a war, which Bush described as a ‘crusade’, led to the tragic destruction of the age-old Iraqi Christian community, rather ironic in the circumstances. Has the invasion of Afghanistan made America safer? I rather think not. Anyone with even the lightest grasp of history would have kept clear of this ‘graveyard of empires.’

America has spent trillions beyond its means; America is now in hock to China, a further proof of my argument that one power has waned while the other has waxed. If the country has, as you put it, protected its interests, its gone about it in a wholly cack-handed fashion. Would you, as an Indian, someone surely with a better understanding of regional politics and history, ever have envisaged your country invading a hopeless place like Afghanistan, even with the co-operation of Pakistan? Was the British example not enough; was the Russian example not enough? The invasion of Afghanistan did not destroy the Taliban, merely submerged it for a time. The invasion of Afghanistan did not destroy Al-Qaeda, merely allowed it to relocate in the tribal highlands of Pakistan. Muscles were not flexed; muscles were lost.

I am no wiser or prescient in these matters than any other. I cannot see into the future, only project on the basis of present trends. These trends allow me to predict that this will be the Chinese century, but on this question only time and history will sit as the final arbiters.


  1. The Iraq war has made a few Americans a lot richer and disorganized zionist opposition. Who is behind Al-Qaeda? The situation in Syria?. The Afghanistan war is going nowhere but is deliberately prolonged for what end? Iran?

  2. Thanks Anastasia, You hold very valid reasons; I respect that to large extent and agree too...But Life, history, events and many more things are not always about is about conflict too...From the conflicting views, we all wish to hold goodness for everyone...views may differ but intentions are good...The power of expression has its own corollary to initiate the debate of differing masses and for constructive outlook...To me such churning of thoughts are must...

    Yes, feel so honored by your comments…Once again, thank you so much Anastasia

  3. Only a tiny fraction of US debt is owed to China - perhaps 8 percent.
    Here's a description of affairs in Afghanistan:

    I have no way of judging whether or not America's adventures in the mid-East have served their purpose, since it was never clear to me what that purpose might be. I do know that the US now has vast military resources staged in every nation surrounding Iran, which was not the case 10 years ago. As we know from the past, successful empires play the long game.

    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the DT has been watching China - he spent his hols there this year - and just posted an item on the fall in shipping trade with the EU:

    But like all economic indicators, it is hard to distinguish fluctuations from trends until long after the event.

  4. "China is a giant who is sleeping; let him sleep! The day when he will awake, the world will shake..." (Napoleon)...
    And in Afghanistan, every countries which have gone there , have lost the war (England during the XIXth century, Russia in the XXth century, Allied troops today...logic!
    Are you gone in Afghanistan? It's true name is : the "Tribalistan".

  5. The original response of the American government was quite rational. They requested the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan to hand over Osama Bin Liner. They not only refused, they also refused to stop him doing whatever it was he was doing. The Americans then did what they said they would - they wrecked the Taliban. Unfortunately they didn't capture OBL. But at this point, they should have cut their losses and left. There was an American follower of Richard North who wrote under the non-de-lume, Curtis Le May. He said the Americans should just adopt the policy of "rinse and then rinse again". Just bomb them till they stopped doing whatever they were doing, with repeat bombing it they started doing it again. How much blood and treasure would have been saved.

  6. Anthony, bring Iran into the equation and what we have seen up to now has been no more than a clam bake.

  7. Uttam, thank you for the inspiration. :-)

  8. Calvin, you surprise me; I thought the Chinese debt was higher. Anyway, it's still crippling, to whomsoever its owed. Thanks for those links. I'll have a look a bit later. Yes, the Owl of Minerva and so on. My problem is that I fly at dawn. :-)

  9. Ortho, the problem is that our politicians suffer from the curse of King Lear - they are old before they are wise.

  10. Michael, you certainly are wise. If only our benighted leaders could think like this.

  11. The following comment is posted on behalf of Nobby.

    To my mind Ana - and I think history bears witness to the fact -
    America is as strong and successful as its President; a weak President
    equals a weak America.

    1. Nobby, yes, that's true...up to a point. Strong presidents are really the exception in American history. Most of those between Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were mediocrities, but American power was still on the ascent. What we are seeing now looks more like a trend, though I agree that the pathetically incapable Obama has amplified the effect.

  12. Great History Facts and interesting blog..