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A History of International Relations:
Power & Hypocrisy
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
There is an old Indian adage that could be used as the formula for international relations. It states that the elephant has two types of teeth. The tusks are for show and intimidation and the rest are functional for grinding nutrients for survival. The earliest use of hypocritical propaganda are the monuments and records of the battle at Qadesh between Rameses, the Second and the Hittites in the latter part of the second millennium BCE. The battle was really a draw and peace was signed with the wedding of a Hittite princess to the Egyptian pharaoh. Yet Rameses inscribed an exaggerated and inaccurate account of triumph, all over Egypt. Incidentally the British poet Shelley wrote a beautiful and sarcastic poem titled Ozymandias, mocking the penchant to build glorious monuments, without nary a criticism of the much cruder British Stonehenge or contemporary British architectural monuments. The key ancient document from fifth century BCE to substantiate my thesis is Thucydides Melian dialogue between the envoys of Athens and the island of Melos at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, that led to the destruction and defeat of Athens at the hands of Sparta and its allies. Athens gave an ultimatum to Melos, an ally of Sparta to submit, change sides and pay tribute or be destroyed. The Melians promised neutrality and peaceful co-existence by appealing to reason, conscience, justice and long-term benefits. Dialogue excerpts follow with my comments in parentheses.
The Melians resisted and lost. They were killed or enslaved. Athens got its comeuppance later and was defeated and destroyed by Sparta. As Mao said, "Power grows out of the barrel of a gun", but also out of wealth both personal or national. The Romans used their military strength to build an empire as did the Persians under Cyrus and Arabs under Islam. The European empires ofSpain, Portugal, France and Britain shamelessly and unjustly exploited native Americans, Africans and Asians under the guise of spreading Christianity and the white man's civilizing burden. Asia had earlier civilization and more decent religion predating colonization for millennia. It was the inability to accept the origin of the European language and civilization roots from Asia that has propagated the myth of Greek origins for Western Civilization. Plato (documenting ideas of Socrates), Aristotle and Thucydides were three great thinkers of Greece and all date after 500 BCE. It is true that Euclid, Archimedes and Eristothanes works are in Greek but so are the writings of Raman and Ramanujan in English. That doesn't make them Englishmen. The sculpture of Greece while superb was learnt from Cyprus which got it from Egypt. Readers may wish to read the two volume work "Black Athena". In the process of empire building genocide was committed by the British in America and Australia, by the Germans in Southwest Africa and Europe, by the Spanish in Central and South America, by the Portuguese and Belgians in Africa. Slave trade was carried out by most of these European countries and hypocrisy brazenly practiced by the founding fathers of America by allowing slavery while proclaiming the Declaration of Independence. I realize that retrospective moral analysis can be unfair but American slavery is undefendable by any rational or moral means, in view of the Declaration of Independence. The same patterns of might is right led to the betrayal of the Arabs and Iran with unnatural boundaries and persistent strife in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa due to British, French, Belgian and Portuguese colonial strategies. The current hegemon follows the same aggressive militaristic policy. The important new development is that the Athenians were not hypocritical.
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