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GLOBAL CRISIS

Once upon a time anti-Americanism was attributed to envy. Americans claimed that other nations were jealous of their resources, wealth, power and success. But that was between states. The common people were not concerned with what the U.S. had and what it was doing.

Today, the situation is different. In the internet age people across the world know all about U.S. activities in various fields, -from global warming, unwinnable wars, bullying its allies, to its blatant disregard for international law and ethical behavior. Others, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been direct victims of U.S. brutalities. Therefore, whereas the former dislike America, the latter hate it intensely. For example, even though America and Britain are hitched in a special relationship, yet, when George Bush visited U.K. there was such a wave of angry protest that he had to travel almost in a capsule to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Even in America’s next door neighbor, Canada, Carolyn Parrish, a member of the Parliament for the ruling party once spoke on television saying: “Damn Americans. I hate those bastards.” (Nicolas D. Kristof, Losses before bullets fly; New York Times, March 7, 2003)

Democracy is said to be a product of revolution. For Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom of just over 700,000 people, democracy however, did not develop organically. Instead, on the 17th of December 2005, the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced to his stunned subjects that he would abdicate the throne in favor of his eldest son, and that general elections would be held in 2008.

The transition to a multiparty democracy was the last of a series of reforms spearheaded by King Wangchuck that saw Bhutan come a long way from its beginnings as a Buddhist sanctuary in 1616. Created by a Tibetan monk for the specific purpose of shutting out the rest of the world, the hermetic kingdom had remained impervious to the changing world until Tibet was invaded by China in the 50s. Suddenly aware of the vulnerability of his nation, King Wangchuck implemented a careful program of modernization that saw his people embrace the kind of material progress that most western countries take centuries to achieve. Bhutan had no public hospitals or schools until the 1950s, no paper currency, roads or electricity until several years after that and no diplomatic relations with any other country until 1961. King Wangchuk’s most celebrated reform however, came in 1998 when he pioneered a new way to measure quality of life called Gross National Happiness (GNH); an indicator that he soon defined as his nation’s guiding principle. GNH, easily Bhutan’s most recognizable export concerns economic self-reliance, protecting the environment, the preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s culture, and good governance in the form of a democracy.

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The Afghan imbroglio has now come to haunt the region and perhaps the globe as well. Thirty years of destruction and violence have left a stateless and vandalized polity where the great powers of our age are scrambling for bits and pieces of territorial and political control. Alongside this, the regional players with great delusions of grandeur about their strategic interests and military might i.e. India, Pakistan and Iran are also picking up battles attempting to reinvent history or reaffirm their jingoistic sense of nationhood.

There is no question that the U.S. invasion and subsequent battles in Afghanistan were unjust and destructive. More so, the operations of a mammoth war machine have become deeply unpopular within the U.S. and other countries, which comprise the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The arms industry has been the key beneficiary of this war game that does not appear to be ending anytime soon.

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The war in Afghanistan is in its ninth year. It has been the longest war for the U.S. surpassing even the war in Vietnam, although in terms of casualties and loss of lives far less. Nonetheless, it has proved to be a quagmire and a huge challenge for U.S. and ISAF. Apart from progress in some isolated areas it has failed to achieve any of the original goals that President Bush had set when he launched the military operation in 2001. It is also ironic that President Obama, while still a Senator and during the Presidential election campaign, remained an ardent supporter of the war in Afghanistan. He called it a just war, unlike the war in Iraq that he opposed and did not vote for.

Despite the fact that he took several months to deliberate and formulate a revised strategy for the region (the Af-Pak strategy) it has failed to produce commensurate results. Violence has risen to new heights across the whole of Afghanistan and civilian and military casualties have been the highest during this year since 2001. From a Pakistani perspective the war has been pushed into the tribal belt and other parts of Pakistan with considerable loss of life and property. The Taliban and other militant groups have suffered setbacks in certain pockets in Kandahar and other eastern and southern provinces but continue to demonstrate dogged resistance and the ability to bounce back.

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