Shadows of another world war

March 13, 2022

Russia must be condemned but the West should not join the conflict militarily

Shadows of another world war

I am appalled by any war of aggression since war is a crime against humanity. But the present attack by Russia on Ukraine is more appalling than most other wars because it could precipitate a world war. If history is any guide, this is just how World War I started. There were these war pacts: the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) and the Triple Entente (France, Britain and Russia) which made one European power after another jump into the fray that could have been contained as a small crisis. A Bosnian nationalist had killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Austria, in its hubris of being a big power, attacked little Serbia to teach it a lesson. Russia, being a champion of Serbia, challenged Austria and so by August 4, 1914, France and Britain had also jumped into the fray which lasted till 1918. 40 million lives were lost in the war. World War II also started by states jumping in to ‘deter’ the bully (Germany). This time 70-85 million lives were lost. So, if an even more terrible war, a nuclear war, is not to engulf the planet, it is best that the NATO does not jump into the fray. It is horrible to let poor Ukraine be beaten so we must condemn the aggression without mincing words.

We must join the West in our condemnation of Russia and the imposition of sanctions but on no account should we urge or even wish that the West would join in militarily. Many of our anchors appear to suggest that the West (NATO) should have attacked Russia since they encouraged Ukraine. Well, that they did encourage Ukraine was a mistake but to fight Russia would be a blunder. As two wrongs do not make a right, the West should be encouraged not to fight, not its opposite.

And this is what appalls me even more. First, that Pakistan should have chosen this time of all others to appear to condone Russia’s naked aggression against a sovereign state. And, secondly, that Pakistan should have chosen this time to be so vociferously critical of the imperialism of the West (specifically of the United States).

Of course the USA is an imperialist power, but is Russia any better? All great powers, unfortunately, project their power abroad. Some do it through economic and cultural domination alone while others use force. We should condemn this, of course, but the latest example of this is the Russian attack on Ukraine. Somehow, we have taken to justifying this naked aggression while condemning Western exercises of imperialistic power projection. A number of our respected, and normally erudite and balanced, policy analysts have invoked the history of the relations of Russia with Ukraine as if that somehow justifies Russian attacks on Ukraine. In this context, it is well to remember that Henry Kissinger, a former US secretary of state, wrote this aspect of history in the form of an article. In its own right the history is correct. Russia and Ukraine were one for centuries (Kiev-Rus). But then, so were Pakistan and India. If Ukraine separated from the Soviet Union about 32 years ago, Pakistan separated from India 75 years back. Does that mean that now India has the right to attack Pakistan? Of course not! In the same way, Russia, too, does not have the right to attack Ukraine. Sharing a common history, language, religion or anything does not give any country the right to attack another country. If this were justified, the national territories now recognised by the UNO would be violated and we should all be guilty of that violation. And then, if this anarchy was let loose upon the earth, where would any of us be? Where would the world we want to leave for our children be?

In any case, I am surprised at the rhetoric of abuse against the West. Many of us travel there, have studied there, have children or other members of the family there and may even seek asylum there if we find ourselves in danger. Despite our rhetoric, everybody knows that Arab countries, China or Russia are not going to tolerate us and that, if we are dissidents, they will imprison us. And still our TV anchors have conjured up the conspiracy theory that the West is out to destabilise us and so all bomb attacks on our cities are their doing.

While some policy analysts have pointed this out, others have recently started confusing Pakistanis again by invoking international conspiracies. There is not an iota of proof that the West is behind any attack in Pakistan. The causes of the recent terror attacks in Pakistan are the same as before and many people are aware of this. Now that they are quiet, I am much alarmed because I fear that this new foreign policy initiative of implicitly supporting Russia and attacking the West will bring nothing but ruin to this country.

Moreover, it is incomprehensible because we live on borrowings from the IMF and the USA helps us get these funds. So, if we persist in attacking the USA, how are we going to fare in our future sallies with the begging bowl to the IMF. In addition to that, Pakistan is still not out of the woods as far as the FATF is concerned. Now how is that going to work out of we keep annoying the West with this vitriolic rhetoric which, I am told, is on the social media?

I must end with what concerns me most: there should be no escalation in the war between Russia and Ukraine; no more soldiers, be they Russian soldiers or Ukrainian ones, should be killed, maimed (physically or mentally); no more Ukrainian civilians should be killed, displaced or made to suffer by the dogs of war. Along with this I have a deep apprehension that Pakistan has again embarked on a foreign policy that is potentially dangerous, unprincipled (since there is no direct, strong and unequivocal condemnation of Russian aggression) and bound to fool our people into believing that the West is this country’s biggest enemy.

In the end, I invoke poetry since prose is not enough to bring to the core of our being the horrors of war. I was about to quote Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est but no, but I will quote Sahir Ludhianwi’s inimitable lines instead since they are nearer home:

Khoon apna ho ya paraya ho,

Nasl-i-Adam ka khoon hai aakhir,

Jang maghrib mein ho keh mashriq mein

Amn-i-Alam ka khoon hai aakhir.

(Whether the blood spilt is ours or of the Other/ it is, in the end, the blood of the children of Adam/ whether the war is fought in the west or the east/ it kills the global peace.)

The author is an occasional   contributor

Shadows of another world war