Three questions and a solution : US, Iraq and Nepal
By a fateful quirk, the US, Iraq and Nepal are in an identical position. All the three countries are open to suggestion.
When President Bush could not be sure if he was winning or losing the war first on terrorism and second on democracy transplantation in Iraq he set himself open to suggestions. After six years in the Oval Office, he did not know whether to formulate a war strategy or democracy stratagem in a country where his formidable enemy, Saddam Hussein, was dead and gone. It is difficult for him to identify the new enemy, if any, against whom he could convince the American people to give their support for continuing the war.
He, then, called in James Baker and a group of wise people to suggest which way to go to get out of Iraq. President Bush listened carefully what they had to say after a seemingly great intellectual, strategic and political exercise. The American President, however, decided to go further inside Iraq with more than 20,000 troops to pave the way for getting out of that ruined country. Simple logic might not be able to explain such a move in the opposite direction. But given his mindset and the choices, the president could not but pick one to suit his agenda.
Iraq is more open to suggestions than the US because it is more vulnerable and uncertain about its future. Where is the end to the unending suicide squads taking, at least, a daily toll of a hundred lives? Will Iraq survive as a united sovereign nation once the foreign troops leave that country? Should the Iraqis pay the price for peace with division of the country into three parts going to the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds?
How long will the American and British troops hold on to that country to save the implanted government of the exiles? Will US President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair go down in history as people with wrong judgments, wrong partnership and wrong doers in case of Iraq despite their other achievements on their home fronts? Iraq is still vulnerable, posing wide open questions to be answered.
Is Nepal less open and vulnerable than the worst case of Iraq? The Maoist rebellion is on hold, their arms held in storage and the widespread killing stopped. The rebels have signed the peace treaty and the interim constitution and entered the national legislature as lawmakers.
They will participate in the interim government with the full assurance that violence on their part has come to an end. The Nepali Army remains confined to its barracks to make sure there won’t be any violent clash, not even inadvertently with the Maoists.
It is indeed a great 11-year exercise to bring the country to a state of shock and trauma for the noble cause of transformation of the feudal Nepali setup into a free modern society. Nepalis have become a free people, thanks to the Jana Andolan II and its consequences but are they really free from further violence, disruption and disorder? Remaking Nepal is getting more difficult than resurrecting it. It stands again between unity and disunity, violence and non-violence and survival and destruction. That is a good reason to believe that Nepal is once again open to suggestions.
The good thing about it is that vulnerabilities throw up as many opportunities to cope with as the challenges. As far as the US is concerned, it has turned into its own victim in Iraq due to its narrow and self-conceited view of its national security. Americans never understood themselves, let alone the people abroad. They are the most isolationist people happy with their resources and affluence. As a reluctant global power in the post-war period, it is but natural for the US to have a good track record of making mistakes, greater mistakes and greatest mistake as symbolised in Iraq.
To correct the mistake we can visualise a number of options. The US has the biggest sensitivity to sending its troops for maintaining peace in Iraq but obviously no financial restriction. So it can put in money whereas somebody can send the troops to establish peace and order. Iraq’s biggest problem is national unity and maintenance of law and order. That is better attainable with the absence of the American soldiers and presence of some more palatable and amiable ones. Nepalis have the biggest problem of supporting their armed forces idling in the barracks and cantonments. They have an option to use their military strength for peace keeping somewhere else as it has proved redundant in the absence of war at home.
These three options throw up an idea for solution. Accordingly, the US withdraws all its troops from Iraq but, instead, finances all peace operations in that country. Nepal sends its troops to Iraq for peacekeeping but gets all paid by the Americans. Iraq restarts its internal peace process without being overshadowed by foreign influence like that of the US. All of them can come under one global setup organised for peace and democracy in the world.
Shrestha is a freelance journalist