War is the Health of the State

The American journalist Randolph Bourne in his famous essay, The State, said,

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part. …

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties. The minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation, instead of converting merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Other values such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State, are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them. (emphasize mine).

These are the things that are happening in India today amidst the war hysteria that has been drummed up by the Modi government after the suicide attack in Pulwama on 14th February, 2019. To avenge the death of 44 CRPF personnel, as wished by Modi’s supporters, his government conducted a so-called Surgical Strike 2 where Indian Air Force Mirage fighter jets crossed the Line of Control (LoC), for the first time after 1971 war, and allegedly bombed some terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Balakot area. Modi and his ministers are claiming that this raid killed some 350 terrorists, but they are refusing to share any evidence of this strike with the public! Western diplomats in Islamabad also said they did not believe the Indian air force hit a militant camp. After this incident, Pakistani fighter jets violated Indian air space the next day and in a dog fight Pakistani jets shot down one Indian MiG21 plane and captured its pilot Abhinandan Varthman. Pakistan has now released this pilot, claimed as a peace gesture, and Modi and Indian media are claiming that this is because Pakistan was afraid of strong personality of Modi! The fact lies somewhere else. It was the intervention of foreign powers, especially Donald Trump, that has, for now, deescalated this threat of a nuclear war.

In this mayhem people have forgotten that the original Pulwama attack was, in fact, a big intelligence failure of Modi government as admitted by Modi’s governor of Jammu & Kashmir. Not only it was a big intelligence failure, but Modi’s whole Kashmir policy is a big failure as this Asia Times report mentioned,

Questions are now being asked about the Modi government’s counter-terrorism strategy in Kashmir. The government began ‘Operation All Out’ aimed at finishing the insurgency, but this appears to have reinvigorated the insurgency.

Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the number of local youths joining the militancy dipped to 16 in 2013 from 54 in 2010. But it went up to 66 in 2015 before reaching 88 in 2016, 126 in 2017 and 170 in 2018. Last year saw the deadliest militancy in a decade with 238 militants, 86 security force personnel and 37 civilians killed in the state, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Pulwama attack, which is a product of Modi’s policy failures, is a godsend event for Modi who was losing his mojo in the eyes of the Indian public as evident in his party’s loss in recent elections of three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajashthan and Jharkhand. Modi is facing a reelection bid in coming 2019 parliamentary election. Before this attack took place, Modi was, and still is, mired in a big corruption scam of Rafale fighter jets. Opposition parties were coming together to fight his brand of fascist rule. He was accused of being compliant in allowing the big loan defaulters like Vijay Mallaya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi etc., to escape India. The economic track record of his government for last five years is also horrible. His draconian policy of demonetization and haphazard implication of the GST regime has shocked and battered the Indian economy. The economic growth rate has come down to a low of 6.6% in last December 2018 quarter and the forecast is that the economy will continue to decelerate even after Modi’s grand pork barrel election spending. Indian currency rupee continues to be the worst performing currency in the South Asia region; it touched its low of around 75 rupees per dollar. Petrol and Diesel prices touched their all time high of nearly 100 rupees per liter, and the unemployment rate has reached its high of last 45 years. His government is piling on debt to win votes. Most of his intellectual advisors have now resigned citing disagreements with his protectionist economic policies. Modi government is also busy attacking one political and economic institution, like RBI, after another. Under his rule, minorities in India are increasingly under attack of rogue elements like the cow vigilantes.

Notwithstanding this abysmal track record, the Pulwama attack and the following war hysteria has now allowed Modi to deflect attention of Indian public from the above mentioned grave issues. Immediately after the Balakot air strikes Modi was busy claiming credit for it in election rallies. His second in command Amit Shah is boasting in front of public that only PM Modi can give befitting reply to Pakistan! BJP politician Yeddyurappa from Karnataka even said that this air strike will give 22 Loksabha seats to Modi from his region!

We will see if Modi wins coming election or not, but one thing is for sure that the war hysteria has given a big boost to his reelection bid. All in all, as Randolph Bourne said, war, indeed, is the health of the state.

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