Were Afghan strikes delayed

Updated: Jul 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
Would Afghanistan have saved itself from the wrath of thermobaric bombs if the World Trade Towers had not been attacked on 11 September 2001 No, argues Kees Van Der Pijl in his new book Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq that traces the evolution of political economy, the consequent enforcement of capitalism through much of the developing world and the so-called War on Terror. A shift post-Cold War, that Van Der Pijl lays threadbare by picking up one region at a time, giving slices of history as the transition chugs along. War on Terror, which he describes as a project, is the new route through which neo-liberal globalisation has furthered its life expectancy Iraq first, Iran and China next, he quotes a Guardian headline as a grim reminder.

The process of eliminating Osama Bin Laden, and so striking Afghanistan, with the help of Northern Alliance, had passed through internal US opposition well in January 2001, the book points out. By this time (July 2001), a US contingency plan to attack Afghanistan from the north was operational, and both aid from the Northern Alliance and the connivance of the Russian army had been arranged.

But Nostradamus wouldnt have liked it this way. Disturbing events cascaded one after the other in quick succession. On the eve of September 11 attacks, Northern Alliance commander Massoud was assassinated (by Algerians belonging to the Laden camp). The next day, planes flew into WTC and into, as some would argue, a different world order.

Nuggets like the one above form the research of Van Der Pijls book, which is thick with references given methodically after the end of each of the 11 (coincidental) chapters.

How in 1971 Pakistans military dictator Yahya Khan gained brownie points over Bangladesh from US administration by facilitating Kissingers secret visit to China How Brazil was kept away from acquiring nuclear weapons from West Germany, which had developed ultra-centrifuge enrichment progamme together with Britain and the Netherlands And how France in 1975, a year after India conducted its first nuclear tests, set up its own enrichment programme, Eurodif, to counter German advances, with a billion dollar loan from the Shah of Iran!

Set against todays circumstances, these equations would seem opportunistic yet purposeful. But its not surprising if one looks at the evolution of various economies after the 1960s and more so after 1985, when Japanese firms made big-ticket acquisitions flooding the US economy with billions in investment. Unlike conventional wisdom this was not a positive sign for the US.

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In contrast, the stupendous growth of China added a new dimension altogether. Its emergence, the author says, is bound to create friction with the West. But temporary tactical leanings on the part of West will not work. China is no Russia, it will have to be dealt with differently. Yet the state as such has weathered the storm (neo-liberalism), and in both China and Iran (and in Russia), it is driving forward development in ways that should not be confused with capitalism just because they take place with private proprietors riding high. In fact, capitalism espoused by the Chinese, or even by some EU leaders, is suspect by the standards of neo-liberalism... The neo-liberal doomsday machine, once switched on, must remain beyond human controls. Presence of people of Chinese descent right from South East Asia to the US in large numbers, armed with MBAs are likely to be the force multipliers for Chinese ascent, he adds.

In reflecting the moves, or rather the mood, of the world economies towards neo-liberalsm, Van Der Pijl dedicates substantial weightage to oil companies as well, which seemed to have been at the forefront of extracting oil from where ever they could. In the process influencing, and some times dictating, foreign policies.

Through the book, Pijls attacks are largely centered against the US hegemony, though he prefers to use the term West more often. In summing it up, he offers his advice when he says that destruction of the planets biosphere and the descent of human society into irresponsibility and barbarity pose more urgent issues to address rather then taking on an imaginary enemy.

India clearly hasnt been of much importance to the global exchanges in all these years, as is visible by the near absence from the book. Except, perhaps, when it conducted nuclear tests or fought wars within its regional influence. Nevertheless, Global Rivalries adds more punch to your repository of arguments against the ongoing mindless violence. However if you have already read University of Sussexs International Relation professors earlier work, Transnational Classes and International Relations, you might find the first few chapters that delve on similar thoughts, repetitive. The rest is all about global cruise control, as Pijl would like to graciously add, going out of control.