Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On being a Stooge

One of the views that has been bandied about over the last months as we swing this way and that about the nuclear deal is that signing it will mean that the government would have sold itself as an American stooge and vassal. That is what the leftists are saying. Since then I have been ruminating on the words stooge and vassal – I mean is it such a bad thing after all, apart from the derogatory sounds of the words themselves. Now after listening to a Skype webcast, I am convinced that the nuances are far more complex and that provocative words hide much more than they reveal.

There are two kinds of stooges if we insist on using the word. The Skype webcast that I listened to was dominated by a man from Iraq - a very angry man indeed who is upset that his country is run by brown Americans masking as Iraqis. As a nation of immigrants, the United States has the advantage of producing individuals of every ethnicities and in an occupation situation as prevails in Iraq and Afghanistan, they come handy. They are their master’s voice and because they speak the language and some what understand the culture are useful viceroys. These are the real stooges that every one should be talking about.

Then there are those who believe that their national interests are best served by aligning to a particular power and therefore do so. After all the primary purpose of the government of any nation is to ensure peace and prosperity for their people and achieve it through globally acceptable legitimate means. In the Soviet era, the original Mrs. Gandhi, felt that India’s national interests at that time was best served by aligning with the Soviet block. Many sneered at her and called her a client state or pretty close to being one. But of course she didn’t give a damn and did what she considered right.

Come to think of it, India has its small share of stooges in the neighborhood though having not much to offer, it is losing them pretty rapidly. One of our concerns in Nepal is that the incoming government is likely to be more ambivalent in its relationship with India unlike the monarchy which was beholden to India. Arguably, it was a stooge Sikkim Assembly that passed the resolution to accede to India. Bhutan has no independent foreign policy independent of India and being a land locked country finds it to be in its national interest to remain so.

So what is the problem with being a stooge or a client state of the United States? Looking around, I see that they have done pretty well for some themselves, unless they are plagued by chronic bad governance like the Philippines. But that is an exception. For the prototype, look at Singapore. Look at Thailand. Look at South Korea—and just to compare, look too at North Korea. To look at an even bigger contrast, look at Japan, vanquished and brought to its knees by American nuclear bombs but today one of its strongest allies in Asia.

We need to get rid of a culture of machismo-driven nationalism that talks of self reliance, global domination and ideological neutrality; best exemplified by the so called non aligned movement in which every one right down to the last member was fully aligned. The government’s jobs is to ensure peace, prosperity and security for its people; that is why people it there. At one point of history ensuring peace for India meant being a Soviet stooge; today it might mean being an American stooge. And of course let us get words like stooge which sound so uncouth out of our vocabulary. Then we our self esteem and self respect would not be so badly wounded.

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