Editorial from Church & State, Winter 2008 (Number 91)
The Long Imperial Road To The Pakistan Crisis
George W. Bush had the makings of a reasonably good American President. He had no foreign policy. He didn't know or care where the world was or who was governing it. He just wanted to be President.
The only world he knew or cared about was the United States. But the other world wouldn't let him be. It attacked him because of what his predecessors had done to it during the preceding half century.
Little though he knew about the world, he knew immediately which bit of it attacked him on 9/11 . The Bin Ladens were friends of the family, and among family friends these things are known.
Maybe it wasn't actually Bin Laden! Who knows? But it might have been Bin Laden. And in the end Bin Laden was willing to take the credit. And that's close enough.
Something had to be done in response to the Twin Towers escapade. And it had to be done to somebody else, even though the Twin Towers was an inside job.
The attack on the Twin Towers could not have been a foreign attack. It could not have been launched from beyond the borders of the United States. It could only have been an inside job, made possible by all the exciting toys the USA lays on for its own enjoyment. Where else could the ordinary decent citizen acquire at an amusement arcade the ability to keep an airliner flying and the skill to aim it precisely at a small target.
But it was necessary that the demolition of the Twin Towers should be represented as a foreign attack—a psychological or spiritual more than a mere political necessity. And Bush was therefore obliged to peer out at that obscure world beyond the Pacific and the Atlantic and do something to it in retaliation for what it had supposedly done to his world.
What he has done is destroy two states. He would have destroyed a third state, and possibly a fourth and fifth, if he had not found it so difficult to extricate himself from the second after destroying it.
Would a smarter President, who knew more about the outer world, have done something entirely different after 9/11? Probably not. The United States is more of a democracy than most of the states which go under that label, and it was wholly supportive of the President when he launched the Rampage or Crusade against Evil in the outer world. Possibly a smarter cookie would have struck at Iran after Afghanistan. At least that is what some of the smart cookies have been saying. But is it likely that the outcome could have been better from anyone's point of view—barring that of Al Qaeda, supposing that it exists.
When George W. was obliged to discover the world, the Neocons were on hand to guide his perception of it. But the Neocons are not aliens. They are in essence only Believers in the American Dreams. And they are perhaps less alien than the Brzhenskis and Kissingers who went before them.
The Government of Afghanistan was knocked over as the liberal West applauded. It is easy to knock over a Government of Afghanistan because the people it governed never invested heavily in it. Supercilious people took to describing the conflict in Northern Ireland over the last 30 years as tribal—which it was not. But the Afghans, by and large, wanted no more than to be let alone to live in tribes or clans, as was once the case with the Irish. Like the Irish, they were prevented from doing so by the British Empire.
The Afghans were unfortunately situated between two expansionist Empires: the British and the Russian.
Tsarist Russia was the great civilising force in 19th century Asia. It was recognised as such by influential elements in the Imperial British ruling class. But that only made it more dangerous from the British viewpoint. So the Great Game over Afghanistan began, and continued until in 1905 Russia suffered defeat at the hands of the burgeoning Japanese Empire, which was allied to the British Empire.
Following its defeat by Japan, Russian expansionism was diverted westwards, towards Constantinople (Istanbul). Britain made a deal with it over Persia (Iran) whereby Russia had control of the Northern third and Britain controlled the Southern third (extending the Indian Empire westwards to the Gulf and crossing the Gulf by means of a secret Treaty with a local chieftain in what is now called Kuwait). The middle third of Persia was nominally independent, but care was taken by the allied hegemons that it should be powerless.
At the same time Britain called off its long-standing antagonism with France, and arranged the Triple Entente of itself, France and Russia, directed against Germany and Austria.
Most of the Germans had been united into a political state as a consequence of the French war of aggression against Prussia in 1870, after which France lost the predominantly German-speaking region of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. The purpose of the Triple Entente from the French viewpoint was to gain allies for the reconquest of Alsace-Lorraine. Its purpose from the Russian viewpoint was to gain allies (moral cover) for expansion through the Balkans—an old ambition which had been thwarted by Britain and France in the 19th century.
Constantinople was awarded to Russia by the Treaty of London in 1915. But it was awarded ownership in advance of possession, and the Tsarist State broke up under the strain of trying to gain possession.
Britain secured its Asian Empire by victory in the Great War as far as military power was concerned. All it needed to do was govern it.
But it had not really won the Great War. If the USA had not intervened very actively in 1918, Britain would have had to make a settlement with Germany or else risk defeat—but in the circumstances of Britain's participation in the War a settlement would have been tantamount to defeat. So it gambled on all or nothing, and apparently it gained all. But in both military and financial terms it was America that won the War. In its crucial battles with the Americans in 1918, the German Army for the first time encountered an enemy that could hold its own on equal terms.
And the USA, a debtor state in 1914, emerged from the war a creditor state.
By means of the American defeat of Germany, Britain enlarged its Empire far beyond its power to govern it. In fact, its ability to govern contracted as the region to be governed expanded. And both in India and the Middle East it took short cuts, and resorted to government by bombing where, before 1914, it would have engaged in policing on the ground. Many admirers of the British Empire were greatly disillusioned. These included the Italian Prime Minister, Francesco Nitti who, on seeing at the Versailles Conference how Britain used its victory, realised that he had placed his trust in an illusion.
The first admirer of the British Empire to be disillusioned was Houston Stewart Chamberlain, one of those awesome late-Victorian intellectuals who grasped at omniscience. For a generation before 1914 Britain had been presenting itself to the world as a new, and even better, Roman Empire. Chamberlain was an offspring of late 19th century Europe. He was English and French and German, entirely at ease in all three languages and cultures. But in August 1914 he had to choose. He did not choose England. What put him off was the immediate propaganda of the British Government, directed towards businessmen, pointing out that, as the Royal Navy had cut Germany off from its markets and foreign possessions, they were available for plunder. He did not think that that was the first thing Rome would have seen. And he concluded from it that Britain had lost the Imperial touch.
His comments were published in London under the title, The Ravings Of A Renegade, but Britain's conduct of the expanded Empire after 1918 showed that he had grasped a reality.
What Germany would have done with the world, if America had not intervened and saved Britain, cannot be known. Francesco Nitti, an enemy of Germany, thought it could not possibly had done worse than Britain did.
Britain's Great War made the world into a kind of unity in which no bit could be let be. After all that had happened, the victor would be under a kind of moral obligation to determine events everywhere. The notion that Germany had a scheme of world conquest in 1914 is mere British war propaganda. It had no territorial demands. Its march through Belgium had the purely military purpose of getting around a military encirclement. Its Navy, never equal to Britain's, had the purpose of protecting its foreign trade, and when the test came wasn't even equal to that.
But the achievement of world dominance was what Britain had been about for generations. The justification was that, since Britain had made itself dependent on the world for food and raw materials, it had to control the world as a matter of self-defence.
From 1919 to 1939 there were two world institutions—the British Empire and the League of Nations. The League existed in the shadow of the Empire. It was a thing of little consequence because it did not even have notional authority over the Empire, and because the United States played no part in it because the British and French Empires at Versailles had refused to make a settlement in accordance with the principles on which the Americans had entered the War and won it.
The League, as De Valera found out, was a delusion. And Britain ignored it when deciding to have another Great War in 1939. (Having instigated Poland to refuse to negotiate over Danzig with Germany, Britain might have fought along with Poland against Germany in September 1939—as it was under Treaty obligation to do. It preferred to let Poland fight alone, and then it began to fight a confused and protracted war against Germany over something else, which was never quite specified, involving other countries at every opportunity. And, as the first Great War launched by Britain was won by the Americans, this was won by the Communists.)
Britain's most able military man was General Monck, who in 1660, when England seemed destined to be what we now call a banana republic or a failed state, restored the monarchy and established Britain as an aggressive naval power. During a time spent in the Tower of London, he wrote the only worthwhile British manual on war and politics. Britain conducted its affairs in accordance with Monck's advice until 1914.
Since Ireland under Bertie Ahern has become a militaristic state—though not yet really a military one —and seems intent on making war on the world in a European Battle Group—it is as well that it should try to have some understanding of war and politics which is not a mere Churchillian hand-me-down.
Britain in its 1914 War put itself in the position warned against by Monck (who we might even claim as an Irish General, in view of the important things he did in Ireland, which included deceiving us for the purpose of putting us down—for our own good, of course):
"An offensive war will keep you from civil war at home, and make you feared of your enemies, and beloved of your friends, and keepeth your gentry and commons from laziness, and all sorts of luxury. But here you must note, to entertain a foreign war, is not good to be observed, but by such kingdoms and states that are able to go through with their designs they undertake. Because as a foreign war is necessary for rich and potent kingdoms and states; so it is hurtful to petty kingdoms and states, for being being too weak to gain by it, they will, in the end, but lose their design, their honours, and monies, and impoverish themselves, and increase their enemies. It is not for kings and states to undertake a troublesome and dangerous war upon an humour, or any other slender motion: but diligently weighing the circumstances thereof, and measuring the peril and hazard with the good consequents, to inform their judgments of the action, and so try whether the benefit would answer their labour… And he that maketh an offensive war, must so proceed therewith, that he be sure to keep what he getteth, and to enrich, not impoverish his own country. For he that doth increase his dominions, and yet groweth not in strength, must needs go to wrack. Now those grow not strong who grow poor in the wars, although they prove victorious: because their conquests do cost them more than they get by them. This error many run into by not knowing how to limit their hopes; and so grounded on their own vast conceits, without weighing their strength, they are utterly ruined. For conquests, not having power answerable to their greatness, invite new conquerers to the ruin of the old.
"That prince who putteth himself upon an offensive war, ought to be master of his enemy in shipping, purse, and men; or at least in shipping and purse" (Observations Upon Military And Political Affairs, Chapter 3).
Although Britain never declared its war aims, and had no territorial claims asserted before the event, Britain embarked on an offensive war in 10914, which it was unable to carry through with its own resources and those of its initial allies, even though the Entente enjoyed a great preponderance in men and materials over Germany and Austria. It seized some German possessions in August 1914 and agreed that Japan should seize others. But its offensive war was the war against Turkey, which it set about provoking when Turkey declared neutrality.
It was in the Middle East that it most obviously expanded the Empire beyond its power to govern it systematically, but that inability soon began to be evident in India, from which the invasion of Mesopotamia was launched.
Britain profited handsomely from all its previous Great Wars, becoming richer and increasingly eager to engage in systematic government of the expanded Empire. But not this time. It became a debtor state in the course of fighting the War. It also became a democratic state, through the 1918 Reform Act. But the democracy, though fanatically supportive of the War, did not have the will to govern the Empire systematically and purposefully—or to let go of it.
Britain might have done something different in July-August 1914. It might have limited—perhaps even prevented—the European War set off by the Serb assassination in Bosnia. And, if that war was not preventable, it might have prevented the German march through Belgium. What it actually did was to mislead the Germans about Belgium and then use it as the reason for joining the European War and developing it into a World War. But, in the course of sustaining that War for four years, it weakened itself financially and undermined Imperial morale in Britain to such an extent that it could no longer govern the empire—but not enough to reconcile it to letting the Empire go.
After more than two centuries of successful foreign wars, the reason it handled this one so badly seems to be that it rushed into it as an escape from the civil war that seemed to be imminent at home. A Home Rule war had begun to seem unavoidable. A rival army within the state had been formed by the Parliamentary Opposition. And, as a consequence of the Curragh Mutiny, there was no War Minister at the critical moment to take effective control of military affairs. The Government was rushed off its feet by the Opposition and by popular enthusiasm, and soon found itself raising an Army of millions, in the Continental style, which had not been in the plans at all.
These are the conditions out of which the Middle East mess and the Pakistan mess arose.
The disorderly conduct of world affairs by the British Empire, the greatest state in the world, after 1918, led to the next Great War twenty years later, which was also initiated by Britain, and which led to an ever greater loss of both military and financial power, and of political competence, but still with an unwillingness to let go of the Empire.
Dirty Imperial wars—racist wars—were fought by Britain in Malaya and Kenya in the decade following the defeat of Nazi Germany by Communist Russia, but India had to be let go, and Burma had to be let go.
The concession of Indian Independence without a war was presented after the event as the implementation of what had always been British policy. It was in fact an event which happened only because of the drastic decline in British military power and prestige caused by the two Great Wars and by what Britain had done in the twenty years between them.
In 1914 the 'Indian Government' joined Britain the War. As a department of the British State it could hardly do otherwise. And under the influence of British prestige the Indian population supplied cannonfodder for the War. But it had no sooner rallied to the call to fight for Democracy and the Rights of Nations than the Indian population was subjected to the Amritsar Massacre, under the authority of Sir Michael O'Dwyer—a 'moderate' Irish nationalist.
In 1939 the Indian Government was still British, and again it declared war. But the experience of a quarter of a century of British war and peace had led to a considerable cooling off of Indian enthusiasm for British affairs. The Congress Party had become a power in Indian society and it declared neutrality. Churchill (who had gone into the wilderness in the early 1930s in opposition to a very small measure of "appeasement" of Indian nationalism) sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India to plead with the Congress to support the War in return for a promise of something after the War.
Sir Stafford was a revolutionary socialist before the War, and was expelled from the Labour Party for extremism in the late 1930s. But now he went to India in the service of the Crown to meet the Congress leaders, some of whom had been his political colleagues before the War. They expected that he brought independence in exchange for a declaration of war, But Churchill was firm in his determination to maintain the Empire. So their anti-Imperialist colleague Cripps only brought them promises. Some of them were inclined to do something in return for the promises, but Gandhi put his barefoot foot down, and that was the end of that. Independence now was his minimum demand, and he would urge no Indian to fight the Japanese in defence of British possessions.
Britain still raised some cannonfodder in India, despite Gandhi and the Congress—but the Indian National Army, that was raised at that juncture by Bose (the popular hero of post-war India) aligned itself with the Japanese in Burma.
The refusal of Indian independence in 1941 led to a state of affairs in 1945 in which it was not refusable. The Empire in India and Burma was gone. Britain, a straw on an angry ocean, could not even have made a fight of it. The days of administrative massacres like Amritsar were gone.
But in leaving India Britain divided it, decreeing the creation of Pakistan.
A couple of centuries of 'civilising' British rule in India culminated in a sectarian war of gigantic proportions, with a million deaths and nine million refugees.
Two generations earlier, Charles James O'Donnell of Donegal resigned from a responsible position in the British administration of India on the grounds that a sectarian policy of Divide and Rule had been introduced.
We are told by Professor Girvin that Britain's 1939 War was such a good war that it was immoral of Ireland to have been neutral in it. Why then did Britain hang on to the main Imperial possession until the bitter end and then wash its hands of it, having reduced it to a state of carnage?
If responsibility in public affairs means anything, then Britain can no more be excused of responsibility for the million dead in India in 1947 than for the million or two dead in Ireland a century before. In both cases it took control by force and monopolised government for centuries on the ultimate basis of force, and by use of its arbitrary power as conqueror it did things to society which had these outcomes. This might be written off as a 'past', on which there is no advantage in dwelling, if it actually was over and done with. But it isn't. Britain in 1947 washed its hands of responsibility for the consequences of what it had done to India and Palestine, and let things rip. And now, amidst the ongoing consequences of that Pontius Pilate act, it is re-asserting pride in the Empire as a glorious and constructive event in human affairs.
Having refused as an Empire to shape India for independence, it pulled out in 1947 amidst scenes of carnage because that was what it found convenient in its own interest. Hindu India had managed, in some degree, to prepare itself for Independence, despite British overlordship. Pakistan was extemporised on the spur of the moment. It was listed among the "Nation states" of the world, even though there was no popular sense of Pakistani nationality, and the Imperial administration was not organised in a way that was easily adaptable to the requirement of a Pakistan state.
And there was no immediately available Pakistan Army, despite the strong Muslim presence in the British Army. The British Army was the Indian Army, and much of it was suitable for being taken over by the new Indian State. And, behind that Indian Army, there was the spirit of the other Indian Army, Bose's, which had joined the other side in the World War.
Pakistan came into being because of the sudden British rush to acknowledge Indian independence after generations of denying it. That the Indians may have demanded independence is beside the point. They had demanded it long before 1947, in circumstances that were far more favourable to its orderly implementation than in 1947. It just suited Britain to do it in 1947, when a Muslim separatist movement had sprung up within India.
When Sir Michael O'Dwyer authorised the Amritsar Massacre, the national distinction of Hindu and Muslim was undeveloped, both having contributed to the British war on Germany and Turkey. A process of separation began in the 1930s, with the activity of the Muslim League. It seems to have intensified during World War 2, when the Hindu leaders either declared neutrality (and were interned) or allied themselves with Japan, while the Muslim leaders again supported the British war effort.
The Professor of History at Maynooth (R.V. Comerford) has recently proclaimed that nations are imaginary entities. The Pakistani nation was certainly imaginary in 1947, as was the Pakistani state. In fact both remained to be imagined, not to mind constructed,
The fact that a Pakistani state and something like a Pakistani nation were constructed out of largely unsuitable social materials, and in the face of Indian hostility, is due largely to General Ayub Khan, who fought in the British Army against the Japanese, and then, as first Commander-in-Chief in Pakistan, drew together an army for the state and made it the hub of the state by developing an economic and social infrastructure for it. This Army was the effective national institution of the state.
In the late fifties, amidst the chaos of politicians, Ayub took control of the Government, and tried to establish the social-political preconditions of representative government. This took the form in the first instance of setting up Basic Democracies as regional self-governing bodies, with the idea that, as they became functional, they would elect members to an Electoral College that would take on functions relevant to the general Government of the State. This was called "guided democracy", and around 1960 the term was ridiculed in Britain as self-contradictory on the grounds that, if there is any guiding force operating on a democracy, it is not a democracy.
That is true of course. If the democracy is supervised by anything outside itself, it is not a democracy. But that criticism, while true, also belongs to an era of illusion. In our era it is close to being the case that weak countries must do what the US and EU require of them—i.e., they are supervised—and democracy is not accepted as a valid excuse for doing the wrong thing.
What we call Democracy is a highly artificial contrivance whose basic preconditions—representative government by parties in a functional state—came about by historical accident in England between the late 17th and mid-19th centuries. But in the self-righteous ideology of the EU at the moment it is depicted as a simple and obvious arrangement which only the malevolence of self-seeking politicians and Generals prevents from existing everywhere. Ayub Khan's view is much nearer the reality of it:
"…a great debate started [in the late 1950s] as to the respective merits of the parliamentary and presidential systems of government. Some… held that the parliamentary system in the country had been condemned without having been given enough time to establish itself. What they meant, perhaps, was that we had not given ourselves enough rope to hang ourselves with. Had we gone on for another five or ten years the way we were going, we should have been doomed.
"The point is that a parliamentary system can only work when you have well-organised parties, and a limited number of parties, each working for a clear-cut social and economic programme. Some people say, 'What does it matter if we have five or ten parties? We can always have a coalition government?'… Can coalition governments, in a developing country, take difficult and firm decisions, sometimes against tradition and the customary way of life? A responsible government cannot be a prisoner of wayward public opinion. You have to move ahead of public opinion and draw the people in your direction. The objectives before me were the unification of the people and the development of the country. To attain these objectives we required a stable representative government, continuity of administration, and well-planned programmes of economic growth…
"It is easy to talk about removing the inhibiting effects of history: it is a different thing dealing with them in practical life. How can you run a parliamentary democracy when you have big landlords in the country who can influence thousands of votes? How can you run a parliamentary democracy when you have pirs [spiritual guides] and faqirs who can influence the people indirectly? How can you have parliamentary democracy or stability when you have ten or fifteen or more political parties in the country without any programme whatsoever?" (Friends Not Masters, 1967, p206).
"It has been my task to identify the new philosophy, which would enable our people to lead a fuller and more progressive life. This philosophy has to be such as people believe in and are ready to defend and support. Weaning people away from an established system which they have long known, even if it is decadent and remote from their requirements, is a very difficult job. People tend to embrace the comforts of the old, rather than risk the hazards of the new" (p220).
Which brings us to "fundamentalism", to "Islamism".
Pakistan was comprised from the start of Muslims who were not willing to exchange British rule for Hindu rule. It was not what is now described as "Islamist". Its ideological founder, Jinna, was far from Islamism, as was Ayub Khan, and as is Musharraf. The first Pakistani demagogue was Bhutto who, after he broke with Ayub Khan, revelled in extravagance. He had been Ayub's Foreign Minister, and his Minister for the Basic Democracies, which after the break he denounced as Fascist. He also played the part of heroic warmonger against India, and helped to lose the more populous part of Pakistan, East Bengal, which became Bangla Desh, closely aligned with India.
In well-established states, inured the verbal extravagance of party politicians, the demagogy is heavily discounted by an entrenched cynicism. Such cannot be the case with a mushroom state like Pakistan, with scarcely any national history prior to independence.
Musharraf says that his object is to do what Attaturk did—establish a secular national state against the grain of traditional (pre-national) practices. That is not something could be done through demagogic party-political conflict—especially when the party politicians make themselves instruments of American policy.
The breakthrough into Islamism was brought about through American influence and the embedding of American Intelligence services in Pakistan. "Islamic fundamentalism" was required for the war against the secular Government of Afghanistan aligned with the Soviet Union, so Islamic fanaticism was carefully fostered under American hegemony in Pakistan, and 'democratic' demagoguery went along with it. (The late Benazir Bhutto was closely allied with this policy.) Now that it no longer serves an American purpose, what is to be done about it? It exists. It is no longer a residue of pirs and faqirs. Democracy is no remedy.
Democracy, long ago, used to mean the people giving expression to what is in them when governing themselves. But that is not allowable now. What American influence helped to bring to the fore amongst the people (for an ulterior purpose) must not be allowed to determine the governing of the state. Having served its purpose, it must be stifled. And the stifling must somehow be done in the name of democracy—of giving expression of what is in the people.
Contents of Number 91
The Long Imperial Road To The Pakistan Crisis.
Catholicism And Marxism.
The Christian Right, Kansas And Ulster. (Review:
What's The Matter With Kansas? Part 2)
Martin Mansergh's 'Dark Corners'.
Cooneyites And Coolacrease.
Mary Kenny, Point Of Correction.
Mary Kenny On Moral Maze (2006).
The Taming Of The Jew.
Irish Politics, British Law And Anti-Catholicism,
Protestants And Republicans During The War Of Independence.
Power Of Jewish Lobby.
A Journey Round Tom Dunne, Part Three.
Poor Little Belgium.
Go To Secure Sales Area
|Articles And Editorials From Athol Books Magazines||ATHOL BOOKS HOMEPAGE|
|Free Downloads Of Athol Books Magazines||Aubane Historical Society|
|Free Downloads Of Athol Books Pamphlets, etc||The Heresiarch|
|Archive Of Articles From Church & State||Archive Of Editorials From Church & State|
|Archive Of Articles From Irish Political Review||Archive Of Editorials From Irish Political Review|
|Athol Books Secure Online Sales||Belfast Historical & Educational Society|