The terrorist attacks on the symbols of U.S.
financial and military power, and the consequent tragic destruction of human
life, may well signify a new kind of world war in the twenty first century.
It is different from the earlier two world wars in two ways: (a) it is a
conflict not between opposed nation states but between nation states on
the one hand and loose groups of individuals driven by rage, on the other.
(b) The diplomatic, economic and military dimensions in this war are perhaps
more deeply interwoven than in the two world wars of the 20th century. Hence
the peculiar phenomenon of directing satellite guided bombs on military
targets in Afghanistan at night and dropping precision targeted food supplies
on the populace by day. In this article we will briefly examine the emerging
geo-strategic situation for Pakistan on the one hand and the semiotics of
terrorism on the other.
Four defining features of the new geo-strategic situation
can be specified:
1. The government and the people of the United States
of America are at war against terrorism worldwide.
2. A global alliance to conduct war against terrorism
is likely to emerge under the leadership of the U.S., consisting of not
only members of NATO but also a number of key developing countries such
as Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. the Palestinian Authority and possibly
3. As President Bush has announced, the U.S. government
will make no distinction between terrorists and the countries that harbour
them and give them support. Therefore the intensity of military, and economic
action against such countries is likely to be the same as against the
4. The historic U.N. Security Council Resolution of
29th September 2001 obliges all member states to deny financing, support
and safe haven to terrorists.
In the context of this strategic environment, Pakistan
may be particularly vulnerable since it has a nuclear weapons capability
and at the same time the existence of armed militant groups that function
within the geographic domain of the state while remaining outside its
law. There was a clear danger of devastating economic and military action
against us including an attack on our nuclear installations, if Pakistan
had not joined the emerging global alliance against terrorism. That is
why the decision of the government of Pakistan on 15th September to give
"unstinted" and concrete support to the U.S. in the war against
terrorism, was both courageous and wise. Courageous because it was taken
at the risk of an extremist reaction from the Taliban and their sympathizers
within Pakistan. Wise because it was in the highest national interests,
and in accordance with Pakistan's obligations under UN Security Council
resolutions to support international efforts against terrorism.
U.S. military action against Afghanistan has now begun.
It may be useful therefore to examine this action in the broader perspective
of the psyche and semiotics of terrorism. The successful conduct of this
war will require knowing the enemy. Specifically this will involve an
understanding of the psychological nature of rage in order to combat its
undoubtedly horrendous forms of political expression.
The psyche of the terrorist is bred by the peculiar
politics of nation states in the 20th century, where state policy in international
relations was aimed at dealing with the actions of other states rather
than with other societies. Social groups that are marginalized from the
global system of state power and face violence and economic deprivation
in their daily life, breed individuals with a consuming sense of injustice
and a hatred against such a system: A hate which they seek to express
in an apocalyptic spectacle of violence.
The global system expresses itself through the discourse
of welfare, stability and rationality. By contrast, enraged individuals
mount their challenge through the discourse of deprivation, chaos and
irrationality. Since both discourses confront each other on globalized
TV, both are expressed as spectacle. Affluence and power was signified
by the spectacular architecture of the World Trading Centre and the Pentagon
respectively. It is a tragedy of our time, that the discourse of irrationality
was expressed equally spectacularly through the destruction of that architecture:
Transmuting the images of order and well-being into images of disorder
Terrorism unfortunately will continue to raise its
ugly head so long as there are large numbers of people condemned to economic
and political oblivion in the interstices of a globalized world of affluence
and political power. Therefore destroying a given set of terrorist individuals
and organizations cannot eliminate terrorism per se, since a new set of
individuals and organizations could emerge from the cauldron of hate and
sense of injustice. In the long term terrorism can credibly only be overcome
by addressing the root causes in its breeding grounds whether in Palestine,
Pakistan, Afghanistan or Kashmir.
Winning the war against terrorism means: (1) Quickly achieving a just
solution to the Palestinian and Kashmir disputes. (2) Helping establish
a representative, broad based government in Afghanistan. (3) Restructuring
the global financial system to overcome poverty and accelerate economic
growth in countries that having been marginalized by globalization, are
suffering from crippling debt burdens, acute poverty and stagnating economies.
We have discussed the structural changes in the sphere
of governance that are necessary for effective use of official foreign
assistance. Let us now indicate the economic and political action by the
international community that may be required to achieve stability in Pakistan:
While in the short and medium terms the war against terrorism is waged
by establishing new military and intelligence structures. In the long
term terrorism can be quelled by initiating now, the establishment of
financial and diplomatic structures that will ensure economic welfare
and social justice for the nations that are currently dispossessed of