Obama does not realise that mere air strikes against ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria will not stop them.
The United States of America (US or America hereafter) has an image problem with the rest of the world. This is not a new phenomenon; it has been so, ever since an Italian explorer on an ocean voyage many centuries ago took a wrong turn and landed in a vast and undiscovered (for Europeans) continent. The fellow was actually looking for India. Never mind that we escaped on that occasion. The Italian take-over of India had to wait for another 500 odd years, as the wags in Delhi say.
When the English Pilgrim Fathers landed in America some time after Columbus, they made their mark in history by unleashing the first recorded genocide in history – that of the indigenous Americans or the First People, as they are now referred to, in the new politically-correct dictionary. However, for centuries, white Americans called them ‘Red Indians’. Be that as it may, as the essayist HL Mencken remarked, the English settlers, after reaching America, first went down on their knees to pray and then went down on the ‘Red Indians’. The general consensus has always been that America is one of the finest countries anyone ever stole (Goldthwaite).
For the first three hundred odd years, the white Americans plundered and pillaged, raped and murdered, and eventually enslaved an entire people and nation. Then they committed further horrors by bringing in slaves from Africa, aided and abetted by the Arab traders, an interesting nugget of history that has a contemporary link. The white American treatment of the
Yet, these same white Americans produced the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that are a treasured part of the human heritage. The point of all this is that America is a mixed bag; as Jerome K Jerome remarked, it is not the ordinary American who is a problem, it is the ideal American.
Over the last century and a half, this huge country and its substantial population and humongous natural resources have become the sole surviving superpower on the planet. Even before this happened, the USA was a force to be reckoned with. Arnold Toynbee wrote in the late 1940s that“America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair.”
Therefore, it is not surprising that America would soon become a key player in the Indian sub-continent after the British made their hasty exit in 1947. Pax Britannica was enfeebled and bankrupt; therefore, it had no hesitation in handing over the baton to its cousins across the Atlantic or the pond as they say in England. Clearly, the influence of South Block in Delhi and a Machiavellian English civil servant, Sir Olaf Caroe, was like a virulent virus that the British passed on to the Americans and which the latter were happy to absorb. The evil genius, Caroe, managed to convince the Americans that they should now contain the southward expansion of Soviet influence, as the British had earlier done with Tsarist Russia. This was the new version of the “Great Game” that the two European colonial powers had played out in the 19th Century. Pakistan became the new pivot around which Western policy would now operate.
Therefore, the mangled, moth-eaten, Islamic state of Pakistan was anointed as a key element in American foreign policy from about 1950 onwards. The most enthusiastic converts to this Pakistan-centric policy were the State Department under the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, and the American army establishment. The reasons for this are not very clear; the American army brass clearly had a soft corner for the swaggering Punjabi generals who spoke their own anti-Soviet and anti-Communist jargon. Dulles was in a class of his own; the joke doing the rounds in Raisina Hill, Washington and London in the early-mid 1950s was that English had a comparative and superlative. For example, it was fast, faster and fastest. Similarly, it was dull, duller and “Dulles”.
We have to fast forward through the 1960s, 70s (including the wretched behaviour of America under Nixon and Kissinger during the Bangladesh war), the 80s, when America used Zia to build up the Al-Qaeda in order to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan, right till Clinton and the Kargil war. For more than 50 years, America tangoed with the Pakistanis, Saudis and the Gulf countries in order to build up its presence in this part of the world. India was a mere blip in the radar screens of the State Department and the Pentagon, not to mention the White House. Bill Clinton’s role in persuading Nawab Sharif to call off the Kargil misadventure was the first tangible pro-Indian policy initiative by America as far as Pakistan and the Islamic world is concerned. This was followed up by the hugely successful visit of Clinton to India in 2000. It partially made up for the disgraceful conduct of Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State, Robin Raphel, whose notorious pro-Pakistan tilt had been a constant thorn in Indo-American relations.
Then came the Bush regime which was, on the face of it, reasonably balanced vis-à-vis India. However, expectations were noticeably notched up only after President Obama came to the White House and also made a historic visit to India. These two decades also saw the rise in the power and influence of the Indian Diaspora in the US. The recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US raised hopes that the legacy of American folly in the last decade, including the visa fiasco pertaining to Modi, would now be put behind, and the two countries would become all-weather partners, if not friends.
However, recent indications from Pennsylvania Avenue, the Pentagon and the State Department, are not too encouraging. The Americans still do not categorically perceive political Islam as a vicious, anti-human ideology that threatens world peace. Pakistan’s apologists continue to operate, albeit on a much lower scale, in the US power structure. Obama and his generals do not realise that mere air strikes against ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria will not stop this murderous and genocidal bunch of thugs. The fact that India, along with Israel, is a primary medium-term target for the ISIS does not seem to have entered the psyche of the Washington plutocrats. What is much more worrying is the fact that the rapidly-expanding ISIS presence in Pakistan does not seem to be ruffling American feathers. And India, itself, has done a poor job in bringing the ISIS threat to India to the notice of the decision-makers in Washington.
The Indo-American community is disappointed that President Obama is so wishy-washy about specific measures to combat Islamo-fascism. Even domestic American opinion is hardening against the Obama administration about its vacillation on this critical threat to world peace. Raisina Hill must now intensify its efforts with the American mandarins to encourage them to take a much more decisive stand on this vital issue.
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