Random Thoughts

Two Faces of (jan)US

1. Urchin or Uncle Sam's K(ch)orea, Sydenham's or Huntingtons

Sydenham, a British physician, gave a beautiful description of a malady affecting young children after an attack of sore throat. The patients made involuntary, jerky, rapid movements and often volitionally extended the involuntary movements to make them appear purposeful. This is an attempt to portray knee jerk behavior as well thought out or what is called spin in political parlance. Sydenham noted that such an unfortunately afflicted child was thrice punished; for not sitting still, for breaking china and for making faces at grandmother (or other family members, but in those times the children often sat at the table, opposite grandmother).

Huntington, an American physician from Long Island described a familial disease of identical involuntary movements, associated with progressive mental deterioration. Both were named CHOREA, based on the Greek word, meaning dance, emphasizing the movements characteristic of both the illnesses. The critical difference is, that Sydenham's chorea is a self-limited, acquired, benign disease of immature childhood, which spontaneously disappears with time while Huntington's chorea is a genetic, incurable, progressive fatal disease of mature adults.

It is a generally accepted fact that Britain is the mother country of USA and mothers are often partial to their children, oblivious to their faults and blindly supportive of their quixotic schemes. Thus it was not completely surprising to hear of the U.K. Conservative Party blindly endorsing a missile shield policy to counter rogue states and listing K(CH)orea as the foremost. It is irrelevant that prominent unbiased physicists, missile experts and security agency personnel opine against the feasibility, cost or effectiveness of the system.

English is partly derived from German and French. In view of these Saxon and Norman origins, one may place Germany and France in the role of grandmothers and other members of the NATO family as aunts, cousins etc. All these relatives are far from enthused with the idea of abrogating the old ABM treaty and annoying Russia. America does not seem to care, and makes faces at its family members. It has had this bee in its bonnet about a monolithic communist conspiracy ever since the Korean war and as a result cannot sit still and performs jerky involuntary actions which it tries to modulate midcourse, to appear purposeful, well thought out actions. Lastly, it has been trying to break (up) China for a long time. Is this a transient tantrum and evanescent disease of immaturity or the demented behavior of an aging adult with a far gone fatal malady? 

2. The Brilliant Pebble Strategy of the United States

The fall of great powers is due to decreasing economic strength or a newly developed warfare technology. America's current main adversaries are Russia and China. Russia is already on the floor of the economic boxing ring and the count is five. It is too dependent on economic help to protest vehemently, as long as it is treated with respect. Putin has memories of the dismembered Soviet Union due to adventurism in Afghanistan and attempting to match Reagan's star wars. Increased weapon outlays would deliver the coup de grace to a hamstrung economy. Russia was beginning to build up a co-operative relationship with China and assigning Russia a privileged position will isolate China and compel it to divert needed resources to nuclear weapons as it does not have the know-how for an anti-missile shield. This will leave it unable to create jobs for its large drifting population. By sending a high official to consult with Japan, South Korea and India, while pointedly omitting China, America is retaliating against recent Chinese behavior and playing the India card. This is sure to add to the Indo-Pakistani tensions, but the Bush administration seems to be on the verge of writing it off. It is never mentioned as a rogue state, but it is likely that the main reason for building a missile shield is, to cope with a disintegrating nuclear Pakistan, selling or giving weapons of mass destruction to Islamic fundamentalists. North Korea is mending its behavior, Iran has matured since its early days and Iraq is on its knees, shorn of the delusions of grandeur.

Europe seems to be looking at Russia as a de-clawed bear, huge but playful and tamed. This flirtation needed to be stopped right in its tracks and the allies nostalgically reminded of the good old times. Old IOUs can be cashed in and new fears played upon. The Panchatantra, an Indian epic details this strategy of how to unravel a threatening new rapprochement. Another fable talks of stealthily throwing a pebble at someone from the general direction of the party towards whom one wishes to generate suspicion. This process is repeated in the opposite direction with equal stealth. I call this a brilliant strategic use of pebbles. It is crucial to prevent the defection of European Union, the only conglomerate entity, which has the economic wherewithal, to supplant US hegemony. The other major ally, Israel, is happy to flourish under the shade of an anti-missile shield. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates have little to say and are all time bombs waiting to explode.

Concerned scientists and strategic thinkers have voiced serious doubts about the feasibility or effectiveness of the program and here they are missing an important perspective of the administration. America is the only country which can afford to spend the money and by doing so put a serious dent into the hopes and aspirations of adversaries, while trapping them in an economic quagmire and obtaining the assured support of Europe, which could challenge its supreme primacy. Reagan did it, so why can't Bush? Finally even if it does not work, large sums will be spent which could boost the economy, possibly produce serendipitous technology benefits and incidentally return the favors of sundry corporate contributors, with lucrative federal contracts!   


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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