Ignorant Arrogance
By Dr Shireen M Mazari

Ignorance can be dangerous, especially when those who wield power possess it. What we are witnessing today is a most dangerous ignorance accompanying US imperialism, which seeks to destroy existing structures in the Muslim World -- targeting primarily the Middle East and Gulf region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of us have been writing for a while now about US intent to break the larger Muslim states into smaller entities and to cut some Arab states "to size" for the sins of al-Qaeda and 9/11, as well as for gaining greater control over the energy resources of these states.
While Secretary of State Rice most callously referred to the death and destruction wreaked on Lebanon by Israel as the "birth pangs of a new Middle East", US commentators are now increasingly writing about the need to break the very structures of the existing state system in the Greater Middle East (GME) -- which includes Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Leslie Gelb and Peter Galbraith have been writing about the need to create three states out of Iraq and other analysts have followed suit as the US gets more deeply pulled into the Iraqi quagmire which it created by invading that country.
Perhaps the most explicit expression of what the US intends to do in the GME region has been the article written by a retired US army intelligence officer, Ralph Peters, which appeared in the US Armed Forces Journal of July 2006. The article, "Blood Borders", scales new heights of ignorance and imperial hubris. The author talks of a boundaries project that would redress the so-called wrongs suffered by "the most 'cheated' population groups" -- all Muslim of course. He says that borders have never been static through the centuries and in true imperial fashion then goes about suggesting how, presumably the sole super power, the US, can set about changing the borders of the Muslim World. He declares the US and its allies "missed a glorious chance" in Iraq when they did not set about dividing the state in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
Of course, like any sanctimonious imperialist, Peters couches the new imperialist design in terms of righting historical injustices -- though why the US should set itself this task without being asked by anyone, is inexplicable. But if we were to take Peters on his own intent, then surely the US should begin by undoing the historical injustice to Native Americans who now have only officially sanctioned reservations to call their own in North America. And what about asking major US allies like Britain and Australia to do likewise? Britain should give independence to Scotland and Wales and return Northern Ireland back to the Irish Republic. Australia's original white settlers, who were mostly convicts sent to the faraway penal colony and killed a large part of the native aborigine population, should return Australian territory to the aborigines, while New Zealanders must restore ownership of their country to the indigenous Maoris. After all, if the US is going to undertake the righting of historical injustices in terms of territories it must begin with itself and its allies.
Western Europe too will then have to undo the injustice suffered by "cheated" people like the Basques of Spain -- to cite just one example. Coming closer to the Middle East, Peters' own focus, surely the most cheated people are the Palestinians. The British imperialists decided, through the Balfour Declaration, to give the Jews a homeland and then they began shifting them to Palestine -- with the local people forcibly ejected from their historic lands. To atone for Hitler's crimes, the Palestinians were made to pay as the "unnatural" state -- a term used by Peters for Pakistan and other Arab states -- of Israel was created. Peters cannot be ignorant of this history but makes no suggestion of giving back the Palestinians all their lands. He should know that if he is examining how a "better Middle East would look", he should focus on righting the great injustice done to the Palestinian people. Ironically, the Israelis have adopted a policy of lebensraum or "living space" and have sought to continuously expand their borders -- such are the lessons learnt from history!
His ignorance comes out clearly when he refers to the need to break up Saudi Arabia to create a separate "Muslim super-Vatican" out of the holy cities of Makkah and Madina to be ruled in rotation by the world's major Muslim schools and movements. To begin with, the Vatican model is good for one school within Christianity -- that of the Roman Catholics. Can one imagine the Pope periodically handing over the Vatican to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Orthodox Church?
The punitive factor is also present when Peters talks of how the "unnatural state of Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan" -- the latter being the only Muslim nuclear state! He proposes that Jordan be expanded at Saudi expense and the Shias populating the coastal oilfields of Saudi Arabia be given control of this area while Yemen would take some of the Saudi territory adjacent to it. All this so that the "House of Saud would be capable of far less mischief toward Islam and the world". It is time the Saudis worried about the massive military access they have given to the US and Britain in their territory.
As for Pakistan, Peters' ignorance is highlighted when he talks of compensating Afghanistan, for its loss to Persia in the West, with Pakistan's NWFP. Had he studied history, he would have known that people have moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan, not the other way round. So if there is to be territorial adjustment, Pakistan should be gaining more territory. But then Pakistan is a nuclear power and this rests uncomfortably with Christian America! And of course, Free Balochistan would also be created along with Kurdistan! As for Iran, it would be truncated into a purely Persian state with the fate of Bandar Abbas still undecided because Peters also sees the creation of a Shia Arab state and the US may choose to give the port to that state.
Peters may sound ridiculous, but if we were to recollect how many absurdities have become official Bush Administration policies, then we should take this seriously and take measures to counter this agenda before it is fully operationalised. I say "fully" because if one looks at the instability both within Muslim states that fall into the GME region and within the region, one can see the beginnings of the operationalisation of this new imperial design. After all, the intent is to create dissent and polarizations within our states as well as between the states of the region so that eventually total anarchy reigns in the GME. Israel failed to do this in its latest military assault on Lebanon but Iraq is heading in that direction and the Gulf States are overwhelmed with the US military presence which will cost them dearly in the long run if the US imperialist design continues to unfold.
How to counter such designs from succeeding? A two-pronged strategy for all these states: One, strengthen the domestic consensus through greater civil society participation. Political solutions to political grievances of all segments of civil society so that the space is not available for outsiders to exploit. Two, to evolve defense treaties amongst Muslim states. Here Pakistan can take the lead by initiating security treaties with the GCC collectively or with Gulf States bilaterally and also seek a greater strategic partnership with Iran. The US imperial threat targets all of us and a collective proactive response is required by the Muslims states of the GME.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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