War for oil supremacy
Himmat Singh Gill

Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq
by Kees Van Der Pijl Vistaar Publications. Pages 459. Rs 650

Global Rivalries from the Cold War to IraqAFTER his best-selling book "The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class" (Verso, 1984) had set the English-speaking western world a notch apart from the rest, Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex, Kees Pijl, in this book dexterously makes the point that western expansionism has led to rivalries and strife around the globe, and that today a "Lockean heartland" finds itself challenged by contender states that will stop at nothing in their fight for political and economic supremacy. A fascinating truth, the veracity of which is proved to a point with the western advance into Afghanistan and Iraq, and who knows Iran tomorrow, couched ostensibly in the well-known rationale of a war waged against terrorism, but in reality a quest for energy and oil supremacy for the US and its close allies, in the coming few decades. Are today’s wars a stark reminder of Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilisations, or is it the $ 70 a barrel of oil that sets major world powers besmirching the fair face of the world with their dirty bag of tricks of coups, dictators, assassinations and forced intervention.

There have been global rivalries, too, beyond the reach and sphere of influence of the West, and the eternal rift between the Soviet Union and China is a case in point. "Khrushchev mocked the Chinese experiments with people’s communes, the alternative to the collective and state farms of the USSR." Later when the USSR declared its neutrality in the border conflict between China and India, there was tension and border clashes on the Ussuri river, and the Soviets ended all technical assistance to China. There have been rivalries and in-house fights between power groups within newly independent countries also, as witnessed in communist China when "Mao’s entourage" in resisting the ascendancy of technocracy in the Communist party, "unleashed a radical anti-‘bourgeois’ campaign, the Great Cultural Revolution in 1966". The Cold War between the two great powers of the world earlier, the US and the Soviet Union, saw its high watermark and demise during various phases of its evolution, and Pijl pin points the latter as a major defaulter when he opines that, "It was the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979 that opened the floodgates of a new cold war". This writer can vouchsafe for that because one was there in Afghanistan at the time, and witnessed first hand the truth of Pijl’s comment, with the US pulling out all stops in aiding and abetting anti-Soviet activities of the border-based mujahideen, and turning a blind eye to those of the mercenary fringe led by Osama Bin Laden whose activities into Afghanistan commenced around the first half of the 1980s.

All this while the Great Game of the last century continues to be played out, but this time around the players are not Great Britain and the USSR but the US, China and India. Call it Indo-US nuclear bonding, cutting China down to size, or pure Bush-Manmohanic chemistry, Pijl writes that "the Bush administration is reverting to its original anti-China line, pursuing an idea of Secretary of State Rice to build a vassal block with Japan, Taiwan and India as partners in ‘containment’." Today’s world never seems to ever rest. NATO versus the now defunct Warsaw Pact, Atlantic coast interests with that of the Pacific rim, Europe’s ongoing skirmish with the USA, and the fight for supremacy in Asia between China and India, are all indicative of a cancerous Cold War between the Masters and the Contenders (as Pijl calls them), that will just not go away. This book suggests that authoritarianism and forcible territorial expansion, often at the cost of human rights and dignity of the not so rich, needs to be assiduously avoided if we are to aim for a more tolerant and peaceful world. At the same time the American occupation of Iraq could very closely be connected to something very mundane and material like the US need for oil, and Professor Pijl states that, "In May 2001 Cheney’s commission predicted that US dependence on foreign oil sources would increase from the current 52 per cent to 66 per cent in 2020". How profound a reason why Iraq had to be taken, with Iran a sworn enemy and Saudi Arabia up to its gills in oil in maximum output capacity.

This is a delightfully objective, fair and fearless analysis of a strife-tired world that is being driven mercilessly by "global capitalist discipline" stemming predominantly from the West, where their neo-liberal programme has "conjured up its own nemesis" instilling fear into the ruling classes. The call to arms conjured up against a "largely imaginary enemy of the West’s own making" as Pijl puts it, cannot be heeded or taken too seriously, and the demise of Liberalism is thankfully a distant mirage and mist. These books puts the global strategic chemistry in true perspective, and shows how international communities first go to war with each other, and then use all their diplomacy (and cunning) to usher in peace. A strategist’s collector’s item, and as for the rest, of immense interest provided they know their world history and geography well.