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December 26, 2018

Rejecting the madman theory

Opinion

December 26, 2018

Conceived by Richard Nixon, the ‘Madman Theory’ was supposed to avert Washington’s ignominy of the Vietnam War. Nixon confided in his Chief of Staff, Harry (Bob) Haldeman, “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry and he has his hand on the nuclear button and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

The theory proved to be a complete flop. The North Vietnamese called the ‘madman’ bluff and Washington had to bear the unbearable wounds and irreparable ignominy of that war. Jeffrey Kimball describes Nixon in his award winning ‘Nixon’s Vietnam War’ as “antisocial, paranoid, narcissistic, and passive-aggressive…time and again, an insecure President (Nixon) who feared the appearance of weakness would shift from depression to manic activity, from paralysing uncertainty to spasms of violent rage”.

The White House of today presents an eerie sense of déjà vu. Since assuming office, President Trump has been plagued with practising his reality show version of the Madman Theory. Apart from pulling out of painstakingly crafted international pacts, agreements and alliances he has accused Pakistan of ‘lies and deceits’. In a recent Fox News interview he said “they (Pakistan) don’t do a damn thing for us. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt... No more!” This should be a soul (if they possess one) searching mirror for our rulers, military and political alike, who were acting on Washington’s directives, resulting in thousands of lost lives and a devastated Pakistan.

Lord Cromer famously worded the British Empire’s influence on Egypt when he said “we do not govern Egypt; we govern the governors of Egypt”. Used to a Pakistan that was governed much more differently, it will take a constantly principled and unflinching stance – (as taken) both by Prime Minister Imran Khan and General Bajwa – to undo Washington’s mindset and attitude towards Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan stands fully vindicated today as his decades old stance of ‘we should not fight someone else’s war’ has become an imperative state policy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s riposte to President Trump’s threats was the stance we should have taken the day Afghanistan was invaded. President Trump’s accusations were followed by a letter terming Pakistan-US relations as ‘very important’ and seeking Pakistan’s help for a ‘negotiated settlement’ in Afghanistan. However, after this letter there was a familiar outburst in an interview to ‘The Atlantic’ by Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley (formerly known as Nimrata Randhawa), saying “they (Pakistan) continue to harbor terrorists”.

This was followed by Washington branding Pakistan a ‘violator of religious freedom’. This when two former US secretaries’ of state, John Kelly and Hillary Clinton, danced their hearts away at Isha Ambani’s pre-wedding party in India – a country murdering and maiming millions in Occupied Kashmir and wreaking a reign of terror on religious minorities without a ‘tweet’ from Washington. Israel, also a West surrogate, remains Washington’s blue-eyed despite the daily atrocities it unleashes on innocent Palestinians. President Trump has also retweeted highly inflammatory anti-Muslim videos encouraging Islamophobia. Equally contentious was his shifting of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

President Trump threatened Nato allies that they would be ‘dealt with’ if they refused to pay more for their military alliance. He reneged on the Iran nuclear deal despite the International Atomic Agency’s assertion that Iran was in total compliance of the deal. He pulled out of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal. He has also berated leaders of traditional US allies: Britain, Germany, France and Canada. Peter Navarro, one of President Trump top trade advisers, said on Fox News that there was “a special place in hell” for (Canadian PM) Trudeau. All this can be summed up by a Shakespeare quote: ‘I do the wrong, and first begin to brawl. The secret mischiefs that I set abroach I lay unto the grievous charge of others’.

Oxford Dictionary chose ‘post-truth’ (personal beliefs and emotions taking precedence over facts) as its 2016 Word of the Year, largely due to Trump’s success in the presidential election. After his trade wars, President Trump’s administration has taken the extreme step of having Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, arrested in Canada on charges of violating the Iran sanctions. A reckless and provocative act, it has set the tone for China to detain two Canadian nationals. UN Security Council Resolution 2231 explicitly calls on all countries to drop sanctions on Iran. However, President Trump wants the world to abide by his unilateral pullout from the agreement and his post-truth diktats.

Today, the role of a global leader is not a ‘madman’ astride a military juggernaut but of one that honours international alliances and agreements and treats its partners and allies fairly and on an even basis. The duplicity in President Trump’s ‘lies and deceits’ salvo lies bare in Washington’s global interventions and invasions – from Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’, murder of millions to the devastation of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan while turning a blind eye to the genocidal policies of India and Israel.

The million- dollar question is: can President Trump be trusted? According to the ‘Washington Post’, President Trump made 6,420 false claims in 649 days of his presidency. In the seven weeks leading up to the US midterm elections, his rate of false claims was 30 a day. The coming days might well herald more global instability from the actions of a cornered President Trump feeling the tightening vice of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation amid the sentencing of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, two of Trump’s closest confidants.

It has been seventeen years of death and destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan yet Washington failed till now to understand the limits of its military juggernaut fed by the Madman Theory. Throughout history, military doctrines are based on devising a winning strategy. The US went into Afghanistan with the stated goal of hunting down and destroying Al-Qaeda; this objective had nothing to do with establishing a US supportive democracy there. Today, the Afghan government’s writ is confined to the red zone in Kabul as the Taliban control large swathes of Afghanistan. Isis too has found a haven in Afghanistan.

The only way out of this imbroglio was to engage the Taliban in a dialogue. Lakhdar Brahimi, convener of the Bonn conference in 2001, had it absolutely right when he said that “the original sin in 2001 was not to give the Taliban a seat at the (Bonn negotiating) table”.

“A defeatist position in Afghanistan is not possible for us. We cannot leave in our underpants or without any”. These are the words spoken by Mikhail Gorbachev when addressing senior officers in Moscow. The Soviet withdrawal followed soon after.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: [email protected]

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