We need to come out against a third world war

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - By

IS A war in the mak­ing – a third world war? If there is much talk about such a pos­si­bil­ity, it is mainly be­cause of the ten­sions be­tween the United States and Rus­sia. Ten­sions be­tween the two most pow­er­ful nu­clear states in the world have never been this high since the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

There are at least two flash points, one more dan­ger­ous than the other. In Eastern Ukraine, Russian backed rebels will not sur­ren­der to the US sup­ported regime in Kiev be­cause they see US con­trol over Ukraine as part of a much larger agenda to ex­pand Nato power to the very bor­ders of Rus­sia. This has been hap­pen­ing for some years now.

But it is the Wash­ing­ton-Moscow con­fronta­tion in Allepo, Syria which por­tends to a huge con­fla­gra­tion. The US is pro­tec­tive of ma­jor mil­i­tant groups such as Al-Nusra which has be­sieged Eastern Allepo and is seek­ing to over­throw the Bashar alAs­sad gov­ern­ment. Wash­ing­ton has also set its sight on “regime change” in Da­m­as­cus ever since the lat­ter’s de­ter­mined re­sis­tance to Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of the strate­gic Golan Heights in Syria from 1967. The drive for regime change in­ten­si­fied with the US-Is­raeli quest for a “new Mid­dle East” fol­low­ing the An­glo-Amer­i­can in­va­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion of Iraq in 2003. It be­came more pro­nounced in 2009 when Bashar al-As­sad re­jected a pro­posal to al­low a gas pipe-line from Qatar to Europe to pass through his coun­try, a pipe­line which would have re­duced Europe’s de­pen­dence upon Rus­sia for gas. Rus­sia of course has been a long-stand­ing ally of Syria. To­gether with Iran and the Le­banese Hezbol­lah, it is help­ing the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment to break the siege of Eastern Allepo and to de­feat mil­i­tants in other parts of Syria.

It is ob­vi­ous that in both in­stances, in Ukraine and Syria, the US has not been able to achieve what it wants. The US has also been stymied in South­east Asia where its at­tempt to re-as­sert its power through its 2010 Pivot to Asia pol­icy has suf­fered a se­ri­ous set­back as a re­sult of the de­ci­sion of the new pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines, Ro­drigo Duterte, to pur­sue an in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy that no longer ad­heres blindly to US in­ter­ests. At the same time, China con­tin­ues to ex­pand and en­hance its eco­nomic strength in Asia and the world through its One Belt One Road projects and the Asia In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank and via its lead­er­ship of BRICS. China’s re­gional and global eco­nomic role is lead­ing to its pro­nounced pres­ence in se­cu­rity and mil­i­tary mat­ters. As a re­sult of all this, the US’s im­pe­rial power has clearly di­min­ished. It is a hege­mon in de­cline.

It is be­cause it is not pre­pared to ac­cept its de­cline that some US gen­er­als are threat­en­ing to demon­strate US’s mil­i­tary might. If a hege­mon is a dan­ger to hu­mankind when it is at its pin­na­cle, it be­comes an even greater threat to peace when its power is di­min­ish­ing. Like a wounded tiger, it be­comes even more fu­ri­ous and fe­ro­cious. A new US pres­i­dent may be in­clined to give vent to this frus­tra­tion through an ar­ro­gant dis­play of mil­i­tary power.

How can we check such wan­ton arrogance? There will be el­e­ments in the elite stra­tum of US so­ci­ety it­self who would be op­posed to the US go­ing to war. We saw a bit of this in 2013 when those who were itch­ing to launch mil­i­tary strikes against Syria based upon du­bi­ous “ev­i­dence” of the gov­ern­ment’s use of chem­i­cal weapons were thwarted by oth­ers with a saner view of the con­se­quences of war. It is also im­por­tant to ob­serve that none of the US’s ma­jor al­lies in Europe wants a war. Bur­dened by se­vere chal­lenges re­lated to the econ­omy and mi­gra­tion, the gov­ern­ments know that their cit­i­zens will re­ject any move to­wards war ei­ther on the bor­ders of Rus­sia or in Syria and West Asia.

This also sug­gests that a self-ab­sorbed Euro­pean cit­i­zenry may not have the en­thu­si­asm to mobilise against an im­mi­nent war. Let us not for­get that it was in Euro­pean cities from Lon­don to Ber­lin that the big­gest demon­stra­tions against the war in Iraq took place in 2003. Anti-war protests will have to be ini­ti­ated else­where this time.

Gov­ern­ments in Moscow and Bei­jing, in Te­heran and Jakarta, in Pre­to­ria and La Paz, should come out openly against war. They should en­cour­age other gov­ern­ments in the Global South and the Global North to de­nounce any move to­wards a war that will en­gulf the whole of hu­man­ity. Cit­i­zens all over the world should con­demn war through a va­ri­ety of strate­gies rang­ing from sig­na­ture cam­paigns and let­ters to the me­dia to pub­lic ral­lies and street demon­stra­tions.

In this cam­paign against an im­mi­nent war, the me­dia, both con­ven­tional and al­ter­na­tive, will have a huge role to play. It is un­for­tu­nate that well-known me­dia out­lets in the West have sup­ported war in the past. It is time that they atone for their sins!

Dr Chan­dra Muzaf­far is the pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Move­ment for a Just World (JUST). Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily. com

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