The Yankee Rides Again

jr.jpg (10883 bytes)Responding to the article in the Sunday Island by a freelance journalist Nishantha Wickremesinghe, a respected commentator has written:

"Let us consider the argument. Not so long ago JRJ also put his eggs in the US basket and assumed that he was safe from Indira G until he was rudely awakened to the fact that even the great US acts on national interest and India relations were more important than those with little Sri Lanka and so we had to eat crow and sign the Indo-Sri Lanka pact with its ignominious attachments compromising our freedom of action in the foreign policy arena. Quid pro quos are always a part of foreign relations but cannot we play it more subtly than announcing to the world that we acquiesce in ‘hegemony’ (not leadership mind you which is very different) quite apart from the joke about being at the beck and call of the US Ambassador. At what point to do we draw the line — sending troops to Baghdad, allowing SL as a base to attack China if Taiwan is annexed? Have all the implications been thought through and when Indo-US relations tell both those giants that we have to be sacrificed where do we go? The US is going through one of its worst periods politically and economically. McCarthyism is rampant domestically. Joining Blair and Aznar may make us the foursome that JRJ had on the Malvinas vote and where did that lead us?"

milinda.jpg (10608 bytes)An interesting and thought provoking comment. There is no doubt much truth in what has been stated. Yes the original Yankee Dick JRJ did certainly expect the US to stand by him when India was de-stabilizing this country. He did go the extra mile to help the US by agreeing to the establishment of an extended VOA facility in this country. This was during the Cold War and he agreed to this despite protests from India, the USSR and even far away China, which came within the propaganda reach of the US. JRJ also gave a US company, which the Indians claimed was a dummy CIA operation the Trinco oil tank farm. Then there was his seeking to woo the UK western support by having Sri Lanka break ranks with the Non-Aligned and vote, along with Belize and Cocos Islands (great company] to support the UK on the Malvinas issue. The country lost all credibility of course. Jayewardene lived to learn-and he did admit at the press conference which followed the infamous capitulation to India in July 1987 that he had not had foresight or vision and that we did not have a friend in the world!

Yes the astute commentator is indeed right when he refers to what has been our experience in the past when we depended on the US and western allies for support against India. But I wish to submit that there are indeed a few factors that have changed and these could make the difference. Let us pause here to also examine why the ‘astute commentator’ has reservations about the US. He is of course not alone.

The US is today the world’s most powerful country capable of destroying the entire planet. Her power is awesome. The US is self contained and does not, at the end of the day depend on the rest of the world to survive, though she certainly needs resources from outside particularly oil to maintain her high standard of living. Americans forget that the rest of the world exists. The average American of course knows very little about it. To them the world is America —— the others are ‘monkeys’. Yes, to him America is the world and he cares little for how the others perceive of America and what is indeed dangerous for the rest of the world is that so few, a fraction of its population, bother even to take the trouble to understand it. It was recently reported that less than half their Congressmen have been outside the United States and still less outside Europe. America is the world and the world to them.

What does follow from this perception? Is it not that to them the interests of the world should correspond to the interests of America. Therefore the Bush theory that "those who are not with us are against us" and those who do not agree with us are a security risk to the US. Rather simplistic but a tragic view of the world. This perception has led to the US being involved in wars in China, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Grenada amongst perhaps a hundred other places in the last hundred years. As for her commitment to the UN that is virtually non existent. The one and only interest of the US is her perceived national interest and who could blame her for that. But the problem has been that her power is all pervasive as are her interests. In the circumstances whatever happens anywhere on this planet which she does not approve of, is deemed a threat to her security and therefore a matter in which she must intervene. This should at least partially explain why she wages war on Iraq. There is of course the other factor namely that Saudi Arabia is no longer a dependable ally and the US needs to create a client state which is secular unlike Saudi Arabia, which spawned the Al Quida; Iraq could well be made the Japan of the Middle East.

Yes, a new age is about to dawn upon us and with it would come new alliances. The UN has been weakened and its writ will extend only to the poor countries. The UN has never been supported by the US which thrives on double standards—— one law for itself and one law for others. The Cold War is now almost fifteen years behind us. The US policies of that period and traditional alliances such as NATO which lost its relevance with the end of the Soviet Union would now be virtually buried after the Franco-German hard line against the war with Iraq. The Common Foreign and Security policy of the European Union has also been blown to smithereens and the European Union which was on the verge of adopting a common constitution has suffered irreparable damage. It may end up as a mere economic union and that too on mainland Europe with Britain, the always unwilling partner, opting out unsung and unwept.

New relationships based on shared threat perceptions appear to be emerging. A new relationship is being forged on our own sub-continent between the US the hyper-power and the emerging regional super-power India, which appears to be cozying up to the US perhaps reluctantly abandoning its old friend Iraq. Japan too is coming out arm in arm with the US from her self imposed isolation to play her natural role in Asia and the world. The Anti-Terror Special Measures Law has helped Japan circumnavigate the restrictions imposed upon her by the Constitution. She can now play a role in the defence of the Asia-Pacific region. Next there is China whose economic presence is being increasingly felt in the region and beyond; it would not be too long before we see her blue water navy in the Indian Ocean. China which has her own problems with terrorists would also forge a new relationship with the US with whom she too would share a threat perception. There is no gainsaying the fact that the US would have a major presence in the region to safeguard her interests. Should we therefore not be realistic put aside our prejudices and think only in terms of our own interests.

As for Minister Moragoda giving ‘Hegemony’ a new definition than the meaning we generally associate with the word or his "joke" about answering the American Ambassador’s summons; I shall leave that to Minister Moragoda to respond. Meanwhile I wish to flag an important fact namely that Minister Moragoda it was reported, had been responsible for the new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the US which opens the way to a Free Trade Agreement which could result in thousands of jobs in this country. Negotiations on the FTA are said to commence next week. I wish in conclusion to once again make the point that the closest of relations with the most powerful country on the planet may draw us into ‘uncomfortable’ situations but at the end of the day it would be better to ensure that our powerful friend’s interests and ours converge and that they have a special interest in safeguarding the unity and territorial integrity of this country. This friendship is vital especially at this point of time as the LTTE is not beyond launching a surprise attack taking advantage of the chaotic international situation that would result from the invasion of Iraq to launch its final assault to establish Eelam. We can trust them only at our peril-for they say one thing and do something else. Let us work to establish peace but keep our powder dry and have strong friends by our side.
Karl A