Musings On Shifting Geotectonics Of International Politics

Two big shifts – military and economic – are now defining the current change that is re-shaping the old post-WW-II international order which will make the 21st Century very different from the second half of the 20th Century. In one sense, one has to now go back to reading Rosa Luxemburg to understand the political economy behind 2+2 Dialogue or other similar moves against Iran or Russia or China.

Sept. 7, 2018, 12:07 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL 12 No.04, September 07, 2018 (Bhadra 22, 2075) Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Last August, within a fortnight of each other, two politicians at polar antipodes – John McCain in the US and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in India – passed into history and with them much of the politics that defined the post-World War-II era as well. Both were lauded, even by their opposition (Democrats in the US and Congress in India) as "gentlemen" with whom even the opposition could do business. True, as long as the basis of that "business" was an agreed paradigm framework that in essence made the Democrats in the US look like Republicans, and the BJP as a Congress clone, and vice versa. Nationalism is a pejorative among EuroAmerican liberals only when it is expounded by others, not by their own flag-waving kind; and both McCain and Vajpayee were nationalists of that mould.

They were militarists (war-mongers if you don't like them): McCain was eulogized by the arms merchant Lockheed-Martin as "an exceptionally courageous leader and a true patriot" because he was their primary voice in the Senate pushing for military interventions abroad. And Vajpayee will be remembered for his 1964 statement in the Indian parliament: "The answer to an atom bomb is an atom bomb, nothing else." He will also be remembered for long in Nepal as the Indian leader who instructed his foreign minister to publicly declare Maoists as terrorists (which even the Nepal Durbar had not, calling them instead a "political force using terrorist means") but began secretly molly-coddling them in Delhi for regime change in Nepal. It makes the current BJP government talking of "urban Naxals" and trying to smear all Indian liberals as terrorists an ironic joke.

EuroAmerican and Indian internationalists who dislike this kind of militarist nationalism are caught in a theoretical cleft: dislike Trump, but like McCain because he hates Trump? Trump and McCain's dislike of each other is no secret but Trump is no pacifist. The "2+2 dialogue" being held in Delhi between defense and foreign ministers of the two countries even as this column is being written is nothing but the Deep American State's rather ham-handed way of using two seasoned military men (Mattis and Pompeo) to browbeat two Indian women politicians (Swaraj and Sitharaman) away from purchasing Russian arms and being subsumed under an American military alliance directed against the China-Russia-Iran coalition. John McCain would have whole heartedly supported this move. The liberal internationalists may love Obama (the Scandinavians even gave him a Nobel peace prize in advance) but he dropped more bombs and surreptitiously killed more innocents with drone attacks than Bush the Son, and created as big mess in Libyan Maghreb with regime change!

Where Trump does differ from these liberal darlings is that he represents an American evangelical base feeling increasingly marginalized, and threatened by the loss of their cultural values and jobless with the financial growth that has benefitted only the top 1% of Americans that no longer wants to foot the bill for being a global policeman. It wants a gun-happy "great" America but not one that Europeans, Japanese and Koreans could piggy-back on while exploiting the American market. In this sense, this evangelical base agrees with Russia's Putin who said (and which was strangely ignored by the Western media): with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Warsaw Pact collapsed and the occupation of Eastern Europe ended; however, the occupation of Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea continues. Trump's evangelicals see no need to foot that bill even if McCain's (and Obama's and Hillary's) Lockheed-Martin might still like to.

Two big shifts – military and economic – are now defining the current change that is re-shaping the old post-WW-II international order which will make the 21st Century very different from the second half of the 20th Century. In one sense, one has to now go back to reading Rosa Luxemburg to understand the political economy behind 2+2 Dialogue or other similar moves against Iran or Russia or China. It is her amazing insights that re-defined Marxian thinking: militarism as both war and armed peace is a logical and legitimate child of capitalism, that the mechanism of foreign loans is indispensable for the emancipation of the rising capitalist states, which also are yet the surest ties by which the old capitalist states maintain their influence, exercise financial control, and exert pressure on the customs, foreign and commercial policy of young aspiring capitalist states. It is the rising and restored military strength of China, Russia and others as well as the manufacturing strength of China and the East/South-East Asians (and aspiring Indians) that stands as a challenge to the financial imperialism of the London-New York axis. This reality is already putting a major strain on the EU and the Atlantic Alliance that cannot be managed easily by the junk bond shenanigans of financial capitalism.

A major tool used by the Deep Capitalist State is economic sanctions which is born of a kind of hubris of financial capitalism: block them out of SWIFT and dollar trade and they will come crying "Uncle!". This was said of Daniel Ortega by Ronald Regan in the 1980s who has since passed away but not his policy, but Ortega is currently president of Nicaragua. Sanctions work only against societies that are completely under the domination of the market and work for its good (or that of 1% of its population to quote Bernie Sanders): they do not work against countries that strive to make markets work for society which have other values to uphold. It did not work against Cuba (sanctioned for some six decades), has not worked against China (with Taiwan being recognized in its lieu from 1948 till 1971), Iran, North Korea, Myanmar or Russia. It is doubtful whether it will work against Turkey as the Trump administration is currently trying or against Qatar as the Saudis hope to. It did not work against Nepal when tried by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, Rajiv Gandhi for 13 months in the late 1980s, and by Modi in 2015. It anything, it works to strengthen strong nationalist feelings in those countries that cannot be overcome by pinning hopes on the masses therein rising in revolt against their rulers because they could not buy Camembert cheese (as was hoped for in Russia by the EuroAmericans after the Crimea sanctions and counter sanctions by Russia on European agriculture produce).

Russia's case deserves a closer study. Russia was derisively described by John McCain as a "gas station masquerading as nation" because of its Dutch Disease Impact over-reliance on oil revenues. Dutch Disease impact on an economy results from more than 10% of its GDP being dependent on one sector leading to overvalued exchange rate, expensive labour and loss of manufacturing etc. (McCain might have said the same about Saudi Arabia with even more justification, but then that would have hampered Lockheed's arms sales!) Nepal is going through a Dutch Disease Impact with remittances now amounting to 30% of its GDP. Russia's case was different: it had a strong industrial base to start with, and the unintended impact of the sanctions was that it helped Putin by automatically devaluing the Ruble, making its manufacturing especially armaments more profitable to export, and forcing Russia, for the first time since 1905, to invest in agriculture. The result is that in 2017, Russia overtook the US and Canada as the largest grain exporter in the world; and Russian arms sales (as big as its grain sales) has emerged as a major threat to US dominance in this Luxemburgian mainstay of capitalism, with the US even depending on Russian rocket engines for its space program. Unlike in the Cold War, this time the US faces Russia and China not as communist but capitalist adversaries even as a New World Order is being defined.

Where does that leave Nepal in this ongoing global upheaval? The failure of the current Loktantrick leadership to help revive SAARC which Nepal chairs and its half-baked decision to partake in an Indian-led military exercise under BIMSTEC indicates that the current crop of Nepali leaders is sleepwalking the country into a dangerous rift zone. Oh, for visionary national strategists like Prithvi Narayan, Jung Bahadur, Chandra Sumshere or Mahendra!

Dipak Gyawali.JPG

Dipak Gyawali

Gyawali is Pragya (Academician) of the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and former minister of water resources.

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