Lessons of the Past

By Dr. AS Nakadar

History is replete with events that have shaped the world’s future. Perhaps for the first time ever, the world has seen a series of such events in rapid succession at the beginning of the 21st century.

In the first six years of the first decade, the world saw 9/11, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and most recently a war between Israel and Hezbollah.

The impacts of such catastrophic events are sometimes difficult to see, particularly in the long term. But based on past events one can surmise some of what is to come.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, an exodus of American Muslims took place, especially those from Pakistan and the Middle East. They left, either fearing a backlash or feeling pressure because of immigration questions.

911 fueled those already imbued with an animosity to Islam. Religious intolerance against Muslims erupted everywhere, and this intolerance reaches us even in this day more than 5 years after 3,000 people died, despite the deaths of (some say) close to a million other people in resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Any mention of religious practices, demonstration of cultural practices, or even any outward semblance of being a Muslim, by name, beard, or even clothes invokes fear and hatred among the masses and even in American intellectual circles. It is now a fashion to attack Muslims and the essentials of their faith whether as “Islamofascists” or terrorists or by demeaning what is holiest in Islam in words which are so offensive as to be impossible for us to repeat.

The civil rights of Muslims are infringed with impunity and without any fear of local, state or federal reprisals. International consequences of 911 were the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I shudder to predict the long term effects of these events, but one thing is sure: we will go through more unprecedented changes, in all walks of our life. The economy will suffer from military upheavals and even from the international isolation that results from oppressive international and domestic US policies. Socially, the divisions engendered by these policies will rip at the seams of American society. Politically, we will see worldwide changes in political alliances. Our role as a world leader will be at stake and has already been deeply wounded by recent policy.

Vietnam and (for Russia) Afghanistan provide a scary analogy for the US today. Following the war in Vietnam, our economy suffered badly. From the early 70’s until the middle 80’s we experienced a severe economic slowdown due to deflationary depression. The prime interest rates hit the roof at almost 13%. Had it not been for the resilience of our productive capacity and American entrepreneurial ingenuity, the economy would have been even worse.

The illness of the economy continued to the extent of sundering the dollar’s connection to gold. Breaking the dollar/gold connection helped government create liquidity, by its ability to print money at will, but removed the disciplinary financial constraints so important for the credibility-value of the dollar.

Consider also Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. That single war broke Russia’s economic back. It couldn’t create the liquidity as America had been able to, its industries insufficiently advanced to increase industrial output to fill the deficits. Russia stumbled off into chaos and dismemberment.

After Vietnam and Afghanistan, here is the million dollar question: What price would America pay for its invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq? We are already witnessing the economic impact of the wars, and their impact on America’s social fabric–and we will continue to feel this impact whether we win or lose.

Victory will only affect the degree and timing of the wars’ debilitation of America, but if we lose, and I concur with the majority opinion that we have already lost, such a loss will exponentially compound the disaster.

Economically, the war expenses have added to the massive deficits that run in to the trillions of dollars (estimates range from 12 to 15 trillion dollars). Interest payments alone soak up billions of dollar per day, hence the gross domestic product suffers. The siphoning effect of globalization is obvious. Our economy is afloat, thanks to our military-industrial complex, but for how long?

The dollar itself will be the first causality. This alone will vastly diminish America’s clout. In modern times, it is economic strength that makes a country powerful. With the demise of its pound, the sun began to set on the British empire. The falling value of the dollar will also see falling US alliances worldwide. New powers will emerge, built on their own economic strength, creating new alliances and breaking up the old international regime the very existence of which helps to sustain US hegemony.

We are already witnessing the ominous effects of the decline on our social structure at home. The immediate fallout of the Israel-Hezbollah war has claimed its first causality, the “Inter-faith” dialogs. The Jewish leaders in Detroit area have openly advised their Jewish participants not to attend any interfaith meetings. Because, the Jewish leaders say, that Muslim leaders failed to stop a pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israel rally in the Dearborn-Detroit area. The tension between the two communities had been building for over a year, because of the on going Middle East war, but the Israel-Hezbollah war broke its back.

You can’t undo the past, but the newly-elected Democratic majority in the House and [possibly] Senate the presently disastrous course of our international policy should come to an end.

As Eric Margolis said in his recent pre-election article, it was indeed time to “throw the rascals out.” Perhaps it is also time to rein in the war-horses at the Pentagon.


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