Break bread, not bones
THOSE whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make extremists; those who cannot wait become suicide-bombers. What is it that motivates young men anywhere to choose death as a career? It cannot be the prospect of celestial virgins. How can a Muslim martyr be sure that when he does reach the gates of a communal Paradise, he is not rewarded with a pious Roman Catholic nun?
Is the fatal lure religion? Perhaps, but that presumes that the terrorist is either illiterate about the warnings in his faith against taking human life or selective in his application of them.
Can he be "brainwashed" to such a degree that even when he is beyond the pale of physical control or influence, he remains an unthinking robot, capable of functioning only in a linear sequence of pre-programming?
Whoever has dedicated himself to perverting the minds of others, whoever has arrogated to himself the power of deciding when someone else will die, whoever has taken euthanasia out of the hospital ward and into the streets has, in a macabre sense, succeeded. By deciding when any one of us could die, he has negated our right to live.
Had this been only at the individual level, it would have been bad. For it to be conducted when numbers become meaningless is reprehensible. When it can impact the foreign policies of nations, it is dangerous beyond contemplation.
The increasing intensity of the rhetoric against Pakistan in India appears to be drowning out saner voices, in both countries, that whisper caution and mature restraint. Those with an ear for history will recall a war fought on behalf of a colonial master we later expelled from our homeland, against a distant enemy in Europe -- Kaiser Wilhem II's Germany -- whom we never knew.
A.J.P Taylor's moving account of the First World War -- the war to end all wars -- reminds us of the tsunami that engulfed Europe in 1914. He describes "the paradox that men were passionately engaged in the war and hated it at the same time."
Why then did they embark on such an enterprise? He explains: "Each country fought ostensibly to defend itself, yet sought to conquer and to make great gains. The statesmen were overwhelmed by the magnitude of events. The generals were overwhelmed also. Mass, they believed, was the secret of victory. The mass they evoked was beyond their control. All fumbled more or less helplessly. They were pilots without a chart…"
And what, after four years of carnage and the most appalling wastage of human life, was the outcome? The disarmament of Imperial Germany, punitive reparations, regional dominance by France, and Germany's subsequent resurrection as the Third Reich.
Could there be some sunburned Dr. Strangelove holed in some office in New Delhi's secretariat who is considering a definitive attack on Pakistan as a military option, the final solution to the simmering South Asian problem? Does he have an equally diligent counterpart in Islamabad plotting retaliatory designs against India?
One hopes not, if only because, should such an option be exercised by either side, the results would be horrendous. What could be India's objectives? Disarmament of the Pakistan army? Yes, but already tried in 1971, without much success. Neutering of the ISI? Yes, provided one could go deep enough to do a military root canal. Vivisection of Pakistan into pliant sub-states that would be large enough only for friendly matches against Nepal and Bhutan? A real possibility, but hardly a practical one, for 170 million Muslims in however many pieces would be as ungovernable as when they were one.
And for Pakistan? Could Pakistan's lances do anything more than create the smallest dent in India's armour? Could it establish a naval blockade of India with nearly the same success that India could manage on Pakistan's vulnerable southern coastline? Could it exercise the nuclear option and prevent any fallout on its own territory and on its own population?
After the First World War, the old and the young discovered that an entire generation in-between had been decimated, wiped out. Do we need to break each other's arms before we can shake hands?