The past histories of mighty empires, emperors and kings are in the pages of history books for present empires, emperors and kings as well as for those that would follow in the future.
Gulam Asgar Mitha
I’d returned to Pakistan from the US in April 1976 after completing my post-secondary education and where I’d witnessed the end of the Vietnam war which led to its humiliating defeat.
April 4, 1977. If there is a need to shape a successful future then the past will need to be studied to understand the mistake of others. This was the advise my father gave me the day Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto was hanged in a Pakistani jail on the orders of then President Zia ul Haq (a religious zealot). Ambition beyond one’s ability to handle it is dangerous.
Mid-1980: Zia made the unpardonable error of opening up Pakistan in Operation Cyclone in December 1979 at the request of the US, UK, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for the Afghan Mujhaideen and Taliban insurgency against the “infidel” Soviet Union in Afghanistan who’d invaded a Muslim country. Being the ambitious zealot, Zia agreed to allow use of Pakistan as a base hoping to go into the history books as the Muslim leader that defeated the USSR. That mistake has dearly cost Pakistan with terrorism continuing relentlessly within its borders resulting in civilian deaths and hampering economic prosperity. Zia died in a plane crash in Pakistan on 17 August 1988 along with US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphael and General Herbert Wassom. A board of inquiry had ruled “sabotage” without identifying the saboteurs. Zia had served US policy but did not make it into the history books as Emir-ul-Momineen (leader of the faithful). Had he lived or been allowed to live, it’d not have been favorable for the US or for Saudi Arabia which aspires to be the leader of the Sunni Muslim world.
April 30, 1975: South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh delivered an unconditional surrender to the Communists. North Vietnam accepted the surrender and assured Minh that, “…only the Americans have been beaten. If you are patriots, consider this a moment of joy.”
Thus ended the two decades war in which soldiers and S. Vietnamese civilians of anti-Communist countries from S. Vietnam, US, Cambodia, S. Korea and New Zealand supported by Phillipines, Canada, UK and W. Germany suffered huge casualities. The Communist countries and guerilla forces from N. Vietnam, Vietcong, Khmer Rouge (from Cambodia) and Pathet Lao (from Laos) were supported by USSR, China, N. Korea, Cuba, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. The war casulaties were in the range of 3 – 4 million with most of the casulaties being suffered by Vietnamese civilians. The US alone suffered 60,000 war casulaties.
The beginning of the end of the war started in July 1971 when National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, under Nixon’s Presidency, visited Communist China for secret talks with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai arranged under auspicies of Pakistan. In February 1972 Nixon visited China and met with Chairman Mao Tsedong and Premier Zhou to start the thawing (dйtente) process. The brilliance of Kissinger’s foreign policy was to create a disengagement from Asia so that an engagement could start in the Middle East. The Arabs (Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Syria) supported by the oil money from Saudi Arabia and militarily by USSR had engaged Israel in 1948 and 1967 wars. The undisciplined Arabs on both occassions were no match for the disciplined Israeli army. This was in sharp contrast with the Communist forces fighting in N. Vietnam. The US could not fight on two fronts. It had to choose between Communism in Southeast Asia or support Israel in the Middle East. It chose the latter. It was only after 3 years of peace talks with China that US succeeded in closing the Southeast anti- Communist chapter and opening the Middle East chapter.
During the Vietnam war, an economic coup was also being hatched in the US when Alan Greenspan supported Nixon in his 1968 Presidential bid. Greenspan agreed to serve Nixon as his domestic (economic) policy advisor. In his role as the US Federal Reserve Chairman for two decades (1987 -2006), Greenspan successfully guided Presidents Ford, Bush Sr, Clinton and Bush Jr in formulating monetary and economic policies that would be favourable towards Israel. As Foreign Policy Advisor and Secretary of State (under Presidents Nixon and Ford) between 1969- 1977, Kissinger had successfully guided the foreign policies favourable towards Israel. Both Kissinger and Greenspan have forged such strong US policies favourable towards Israel that it is next to impossible to reverse those. Any attempt would be considered as treason.
China has successfully learnt the lessons from the Vietnam war. They’ve managed to rout the US and the western powers from Asia. After emerging as an economic giant in par with the economic power of the US in GDP terms, it has been focussing its efforts in managing the Asian policies as much as the US is managing the Middle East policies – both economic and foreign. China will never allow the US and the western powers to meddle in the Asian theatre and the US has well learnt not to take on China in Asia. Similarly China has relegated the task of managing the Middle East policy to Russia. The US and western allies are cognizant of the fact that a military engagement with Russia in Ukraine is not on the cards and therefore the only option is an economic strangulation similar to that which led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. That is unlikely as Russia’s Putin understands the American policy that “comrade wolf likes to eat without asking”.
For not even a single moment am I willing to believe that there is no economic conspiracy by the US against Russia and Iran involving oil and Saudi Arabia. It is. It has been obvious since 1980 that the Arabs (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Kuwait) have been hoodwinked time and again by the US. No less duped than the Arabs has been Afghanistan or Pakistan as they’ve relegated their political and economic positions as western client states. Collectively they can be termed as “Muslim Client Countries” of the west. Iran is an exception. One of the best foreign policy basis was provided by Pakistan’s ex-President Ayub Khan in his book “Friends, not Masters”. It was not only applicable to Pakistan but any country. Ayub refused to allow Pakistan to be served as a client state of any power and embarked Pakistan towards economic and political prosperity by forging strong trade ties with Turkey and Iran but not with Arab countries. As a result Pakistan achieved global recognition in the political and economic arenas during his leadership tenure. Unfortunately the powerful landowners (waderas) and religious clerics (mullahs) have hijacked Pakistan towards its status quo. Pakistan has survived only because it has developed nuclear deterrence.
It remains to be seen if Russia under Putin will apply the Vietnam, Middle East, Afghanistan and cold war lessons for economic survival as the west continues to apply economic strangulation. Its geopolitical survival is not an issue. Russia is in a different situation than what it was as USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic). It is a country, not an empire. China has learnt its lessons well; it has no ambitions towards forging an empire. It has decided to apply Ayub’s legacy, winning friends whereas the US continues to win foes. As its war efforts to build an expanding empire are failing, US continues to apply the only weapon at its disposal – that of economic sanctions along with its NATO partners in Europe and Canada. Eventually these economic sanctions will lead to their own economic malaise. It is but a matter of time because empires decline due to economic hardships as was the case with the British, Turkish and Soviet empires in the last century and many others before. Maybe the one lesson that Putin has learnt from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is that comrade wolf continues to eat even after its belly is full and which may lead to its eventual sickness.
The use of the phrase “opening pandora’s box” originated In Greek mythology. Zeus ordered Hapetheus (god of blacksmiths, sculptors and artisans) to create the first woman, Pandora, on earth. It was Zeus that then presented a jar to Pandora as her wedding gift with instructions never to open it as it contained all the evils of the world. In the geopolitical world one of the evils is terrorism. It’s tentacles have reached every corner of the globe. It has always been governments that have applied terrorism against their own citizens such as the Tonton Macoute in Haiti, the Savak in Iran under the Shah established with the help of American CIA and Gharaibi torture prison in Iraq. Now terrorism is not only a localized cancer in Pakistan but it has morphed into a global cancer. Zia-ul-Haq can only be blamed for the localized germination of terrorism in Pakistan. The germination of global terrorism was started by the neo-cons under former US President George Bush through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003. Today terrorism is being successfully utilized by US, European and British governments as a mechanism of global control and to spread fear among their citizenry as well as of those in other countries by show of force. Neo-con zealots had wished to eradicate Islam through the instrument of terrorism with the reasoning that if a Divine ideology cannot be destroyed then its adherents have to be punished through fear to vanquish that ideology. Zia was just a scapegoat duped like other Muslim and Arab leaders.
There is one last thing that came out of neo-con box that wasn’t evil. It is hope. And comrade wolf should understand that it should not try to eat when its belly is full. Many empires, emperors and kings have been vanquished when they’ve tried to eat with their bellies full.
Gulam Asgar Mitha is a retired Techinal Safety Engineer. He has worked with several N. American and International oil and gas companies. He has worked in Libya, Qatar, Pakistan, France, Yemen and UAE. Currently Gulam lives in Calgary, Canada and enjoys reading and keeping in tune with current global political issues.