BY M.R. JOSSE
KATHMANDU: China’s legendary leader Mao Zedong once famously declared that there was ‘great disorder under the heavens’ before going on to aver that such a situation was just what the doctor ordered as it rendered the world ‘ripe for revolution’.
American President Richard M. Nixon, in a hyperbolic frame of mind, gushed equally famously that his groundbreaking February 21-28, 1972 visit to China, would in time be acknowledged as “the week that changed the world.”
POST HELSINKI DISORDER
Yours faithfully was reminded of those memorable utterances viewing/reading about the firestorm that broke out on American President Donald Trump’s return home following his one-on-one jawboning session with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
While it would certainly appear there is ‘great disorder’ in today’s Trumpian world, it is perhaps equally justified to assert that there is surely at least a whiff of Nixon’s ‘the week that changed the world’ exuberance in today’s air.
Cutting to the chase, let me first summarize what happened in Washington no sooner than Trump returned to home base. First, he attempted to contain the storm of protest that greeted him for his failure to hold Putin accountable for meddling in the 2016 US election, saying he misspoke at joint press conference in Helsinki.
In so doing, the American head of state appeared – finally, if reluctantly – to accept the consensus judgment of the US intelligence community and other key organs of the establishment that Russia had without any doubt meddled in the US presidential election – which, as we know, resulted in his electoral triumph, a staggering surprise for very many.
Secondly, another political consensus notably developed in Washington: that Trump, in adamantly refusing to acknowledge Russian meddling, plainly placed his personal interest – that is, his legitimate electoral victory – above that of the national interest.
What puzzled many observers of the American political scene was that despite the mayhem and ruckus all around – naturally exploited to the hilt by the media and the ‘talking heads’ of popular TV news/entertainment shows – one is informed that Trump’s political ‘base’ has remained rock-solid.
Even so, not even his national security adviser Dan Coats, a former Republican senator, was prepared for the second Trump shock: an invite for Putin to come over to Washington for a second round of palavers, come Fall, or around the time of the mid-term elections in November.
Though such a visit has not thus far been finalized, Russia’s ambassador in Washington said publicly that Moscow was open to such a trip. Earlier, both Trump and Putin declared their first meeting as a success and blamed ‘forces’ in the United States for attempting to minimize its achievements – with Trump pointing to Helsinki discussions on counter-terrorism, Israeli’s security, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace and North Korea.
NEW WORLD ORDER?
For the record, senior Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer was very clear, saying, “Until we know what happened at the two hour meeting in Helsinki, the president should have no more one-on-one interactions with Putin. In the United States, in Russia, or anywhere else.”
Though it is impossible to catalogue or discuss here every Trump foreign policy/security move, pre-and-post Helsinki, it should suffice our purposes to take cognizance of at least two broad categories they fall in.
The first, and less spoken of, is the tough-on-Russia kind of policy moves such as that which saw the closure of 12 Russian consulates in the US and the expulsion of some 60-odd Russia diplomats, not to mention Trump’s unremitting moves to strengthen NATO, and his taunting of Germany’s Angela Merkel for being a “captive of Russia” by boosting Russia’s economy through trade/energy deals.
The second sort is the sense of despair, and even anger, that it has spawned in certain European leadership circles – sentiments that have led to an rising cacophony urging that Europe and others brace themselves for a new world order – one in which America has little or no part. This could see China – and maybe Russia, too – moving into the vacuum left by an America less interested, than in years past, in the world beyond her borders.
Whatever the future holds for America and a world spun increasingly topsy-turvy by its unorthodox and headstrong president, the more thoughtful governments are bound to engage in serious introspection on this subject – if they are not already doing so.
Learned exegeses are likely to be spawned delving into whether today’s ‘great disorder under the heavens’ – epitomized by Trump’s roller-coaster week of political ups and downs that ‘changed the world’ – will pave the way for a newer, braver world or represent, in hindsight, merely an ephemeral flash in history’s pan.
Did you know that some Tibetan monks, who followed the Dalai Lama into India in 1959, not only fought against the Chinese but were used by India in her war against Pakistan in erstwhile East Pakistan?
Well, I did not – until I read William Dalrymple’s ‘Nine Lives’ (Bloomsbury, London, 2009) where, in a chapter devoted to monk Tashi Passang, are these revelations:
“Along with many of his former monastic brethren, Passang was persuaded to join a Tibetan unit in the Indian Army known as the Special Frontier For, or Sector 22. This secret force was jointly trained by India and the CIA in a camp near Dehra Dun…
Eventually, in 1971, he and his friends saw action. “From Dehra Dun they flew us to Guwahati, and then drove us in trucks to Manipur. We crossed a river into Bangladesh, and managed to surround the Pakistani army from three sides…I had to shoot and kill other men, even as they were running away in despair. They would make us drink rum and whisky so that we would do these things without hesitation and not worry about the moral consequences of our actions.”
Read the book if you want details.