by Ranjit B Rai 


New Delhi, 13 October 2001

The morality of the war that USA and its allies have launched in Afghanistan is being questioned and deserves a second opinion. Change is the only constant and in recent years the course of wars as witnessed between Iran and Iraq, the Gulf war, India’s foray into Sri Lanka and more recently the war in Serbia, have all proved that victory is as elusive and blurred as the aim of the war itself.

The aims themselves have become dynamic and keep changing. This is because the world is saddled with widely varying economies, from the very rich to the abject poor and despite differing cultures and religions all are being forced to embrace globalization.

Thanks to advancements in miniaturization of electronics, information travels instantaneously by radio, mobile phones, the Internet and vivid TV pictures to inform all and sundry simultaneously. It is no wonder therefore that strategic and economic interests clash with human rights.

The justification to kill or maim civilians in such wars, is being questioned. This makes life difficult for Governments, which are required to issue clear-cut orders and aims to their military, which wage the war and whose weapons have devastating potencies.

Therefore there can be no such thing as total success or victory in war and that realization has just hit USA only a few days after their strikes in Afghanistan. The shock action of their air power has decimated the major targets and now ground action is calling. The question before them is what next and at what cost?

In today’s war, information warfare and the media have become very powerful tools and these two elements can generate controversies of their own –– both by defining the aims and dictating what success means –– to a mass audience. Thus public perception of the war has become important.

Americans and the coalition partners claim they won the Gulf war by liberating Kuwait and restoring it to the rightful owners. Yet their aim to get Saddam Hussein, an original objective, was never achieved and Iraq under him still poses a threat to the USA. The leaders of the then coalition, Bush Senior and Margaret Thatcher, are gone but Saddam still rules and there is talk that the USA may train its guns on Iraq.

In OP Pawan the full Army of India went to assist Sri Lanka, lost 1500 souls and came back empty handed. The terrorist organization LTTE they tried to tame, still haunts Sri Lanka.

This brings one to the morality of ‘Enduring Freedom’, which is somewhat following Gandhiji’s moral advocacy of war to be exercised as “Loving Violence”. Weapons and food are being rained on Afghanistan simultaneouly.

It was strategic necessity for USA to avenge what the suicidal hijackers did on 11 Sep. Morally the USA has to get Osama bin Laden, the Al Queda network and the Taliban out of the way, and yet ensure that the Afghan people do not starve or die in collateral damage. USA’s economic interest of oil in the region and reconstruction of Afghanistan will follow, but till then USA has to sup with the devil Pakistan, who bred the terrorists. It has no option.

That also is the diffused morality of war in the 21st Century and nations will have to live with such changed scenarios of world politics. India too may have to sup with some actors on the scene and protect its strategic and economic interests.

There should therefore be no hesitation on the part of the BJP coalition government to permit USA’s massive forces ranged in the Indian Ocean, to seek out rest and repair facilities for their ships and aircraft at Indian havens and at yards in Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Cochin, as these facilities have been studied by them.

USA and others will spend their moneys and India will be richer by the exposure. In the past these yards have received foreign ships and earned valuable foreign exchange. There will also be no harm in allowing Goa, Cochin and other destinations like Lakshwadweep, for rest and recreation of the American Forces and their families, as their deployment is likely to be long.

In today’s changed global scenario the only morality is to safeguard the nation’s strategic and economic interests and use the media with convincing and persuasive powers to get the masses on board. That risk has to be taken.

General Musharraf has taken on the gauntlet and may well succeed. Then we can demand our pound of flesh including a just settlement in Kashmir and crushing of the Pakistan terrorist onslaught, which has bled us and cost us over 3 billion dollars.

Sitting on the fence on old norms of morality may be counterproductive.

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