Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 22:42:45 -0500 (CDT)
From: colin s. cavell <>
Subject: Clear and Present Danger—US Path to Unipolar Hegemony
Article: 63971
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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Clear and Present Danger: US Path to Unipolar Hegemony

By K. Subrahmanyam, The Times of India, 3 May 1999

WHEN in May, 1998, India conducted the nuclear tests and justified them on the ground that the security environment had deteriorated, many in the world and in India raised the question as to what precisely had happened to arrive at that conclusion. Now it must be clear to everyone that the present international security environment is the worst since the end of World War II. The United Nations was created at the end of the world war to prevent a new outbreak of such hostilities. The Security Council was set up with permanent membership being conferred on the five victors of the war and the veto was instituted to ensure that the world body would not act against the vital interests of any major power thereby risking a war. The UN came into being because there was a bipolar balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union as the war ended. The bipolarity in the balance of power was confirmed by the two powers acquiring vast nuclear and missile arsenals.

War of Conscience

The bipolar confrontation did not result in a war because of nuclear arsenals. The two superpowers asserted their dominance over their respective spheres of influence and indulged in proxy wars in the non-aligned world. Their controlled confrontation also kept the tinderbox of the world—Europe—under check. It used to be boasted that while the developing world had gone through scores of wars and conflicts, the industrialised world was at peace.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and the international system was seen as having become unipolar dominated by a single superpower. The emergence of that single power was heralded by the high-tech conventional war fought against Iraq in 1991. That war established that in future the US can devastate a country with minimal casualties to its forces. That war was an application of the concepts of air-land battle developed by NATO to fight the Soviet Union. Those concepts and technologies were further refined with inputs of information technology to perfect the revolution in military affairs now being demonstrated over Yugoslavia.

In 1992, the Economist which reflects the views of NATO establishment came out with its thesis about the future of war. Future wars were categorised into two—wars of conscience and wars of interest. The Iraqi war was in the latter category as it involved the control over Middle East oil. The present war in Yugoslavia is the typical war of conscience envisaged by the Economist. Underlying the thesis was the view that the US and its instrumentality, NATO, have now assumed the role of the British empire in the 19th and early 20th century. At that time, interventionist campaigns were conducted to civilise the heathen, give him Christian values and to enforce law and order in turbulent areas of the world. In spite of denials, the US fancies itself as a global policeman—not as an impartial or just one but a corrupt and bullying one who invokes law on the basis of his whim and fancy. Bangladeshis, Cambodians, Rwandans and Burundians were slaughtered and the US looked away. Palestinian refugees outnumber the Kosovars but that does not matter. The Kurds have been oppressed for decades and the oppressors are certified democrats by NATO.

The UN has been rendered redundant since there is no balance of power in the world and the entire industrial world, barring a ramshackle Russia, is under US overlordship. If this is not a dangerous international security environment, what is? It is not accidental that today the only countries voicing strong protests against the bombing in Yugoslavia happen to be Russia, China and India, all nuclear weapon powers. The non-aligned nations are silent. The NATO attack is endorsed by the Greens in Germany, Communists in Italy, not to mention the socialists who were the original founders of NATO. While a chemical war has been unleashed in Yugoslavia, the peace movements are not demonstrating.

New Arms Race

There are no doubt sections in India which are prepared to accept the US unipolar dominance just as many of our ancestors were content to reap the benefits of the British Raj. What about the majority of Indians? Do they want autonomy of decision-making in an increasingly globalising world or not? If a country cannot assert its autonomy in security matters it is unlikely to have any in the economic sphere as well. A corrupt bully policeman will pick up a meek person and thrash him in order to overawe his neighbours and intimidate them. The US is bombing Yugoslavia to intimidate Europe and ensure that the European Union does not develop into a countervailing power.

The US assault on Yugoslavia has led to the Ukrainian RADA (Parliament) annulling its earlier renunciation of nuclear weapons. Russia is revising its nuclear doctrines, towards a more proactive posture and increasing its defence budget. The US itself has stepped up its bloated defence budget. The various arms control agreements such as Start II and CTBT are now under the risk of not being ratified. A new arms race is being unleashed with the US opting for national missile defence. A destabilised and ravaged Balkans is bound to increase the risks of nuclear proliferation by non-state actors. Ethno-nationalist groups all over the industrialised and developing world will be tempted to create enough violence to draw US intervention. Only countries which are military allies of the US can oppress their minorities with impunity.

Rising Threat

This is the international security environment India has to adjust itself to. India has to take note of the fact that the US administration conducts this war in spite of the majority of its legislature disapproving sending ground troops into Yugoslavia and not supporting the air strikes with a majority. The US President often involves the forces in combat without legislative or popular approval and then puts pressure on the legislature and the public to support his adventure because the lives of Americans are at stake. The awesome military potential of the US, the dictatorial powers of the US Presidency to launch aggressive interventionist campaigns, at a little or no cost to US servicemen, the ambition of the US strategic establishment to perpetuate unipolar hegemony, the tacit acceptance of that hegemony by the majority of the world and the centrality of nuclear weapons and missiles in the strategic calculations of the NATO powers together constitute the rising threat to international security.