Force not good tool of policy
LAST WEEK the insidious nature of terrorism raised its ugly head in Britain reaffirming the point that national security is going to be a constant challenge to most countries for the foreseeable future.
The mantra after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in the United States has been that there will be no negotiating with terrorists. Despite the response by force, there is no doubt that the scourge is spreading unchecked.
However, there seems to be a softening of this position after the just-concluded election in Pakistan where the incoming government has extended an olive branch to the militants who tried to disrupt elections there.
The United States is just beginning to realize some age-old truths on the exercise of diplomacy and the use of force. While diplomacy without the sanction of force is impotent, force used without a valid cause is destructive.
It is the task of statesmanship to blend the two and promote a result that will endure because it entails no loss of face for either side. History always repeats itself. Edmund Burke’s speech in the House of Commons on March 22, 1775 is strikingly relevant today.
He said then that “the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again, and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered”.
This is not an unfair description of the results of the United States-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. It was the same story in Iraq with its non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Nor was Libya a success and no one can say it has turned out well.
The common factor to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria was preference for force over conciliation. The reason is simple. In all the cases it is regime change which the United States sought and every time the result was worse.
United States plays hardball with Iran which is a regional player whose cooperation is essential for a settlement in Afghanistan or Syria. Many Middle East pundits believe that had its 2005 comprehensive proposals for a “grand bargain” been accepted, the dispute over its nuclear programme would have been resolved.
A similar pattern is repeated in the Far East. North Korea, like Iran, justifiably demands lifting of United Nations sanctions, sponsored by the United States, as a pre-condition for starting a dialogue.
In this process the UN’s image has suffered because it is seen as promoting American policies. Sadly, in the last 12 years its support of force as the prime instrument of policy has seen the sheer destruction of four nation-states.