If there is one nation in the world, it is, surely, the United States of America. It has been, in recent years, developing megalomania and seeing enemies everywhere. The United States of America is not the America of Woodrow Wilson; it is not even the America of Franklin Roosevelt. By the time the Second World War was over, the United States had indeed become, and come to be known as, a great power. Hardly any nation grudged it. Now it is very conscious of being a Super Power and the only one of its kind. This, one suspects, will ultimately come to be its undoing, for America is making enemies everywhere.
Germany, which under Adenauer was highly respectful of American power, has forgotten the post-Second World War years. France never was willing to concede Washington its status and in the matter of handling Arab countries, Paris has been very critical of Bush. But this has not prevented the US from wishing to assert its Super Power status, despite the humiliation it suffered in Vietnam and the insults it has had to swallow from Iran. Under Clinton, the US was more worldly-wise. Clinton never believed that a major military conflict was a real issue. His political motto was: ?It'sthe economy, stupid.?
In his time, US military planning was carried out on the assumption that wars were optional and that they would not be forced on the US by an enemy. All that the US had to do was to retain enough force to prevent the emergence of regional ?hegemons? who could, over time, become more serious challenges to American interests. This will explain US action against Saddam Hussain and the current planning against Iran.
What Friedman has done is to analyse US defence and military thinking and expose it. Time was when Saddam Hussain was considered a ?friend? of the United States because, in the seventies, the US thought that Iran had to be shown its place. Instead of fighting Iran on its own, the US sought the help of an over-eager Iraq, going to the extent, as Friedman tells us, of quietly assuring Saddam that Washington would have no objection to his taking over Kuwait, if he defeats Iran. What Saddam did not know was that the US did not expect Iraq to win. Washington'saim was to see that Iran and Iraq destroyed each other so that neither would be a threat to the US in the Middle East and in West Asia. The United States gave Iraq liberal help. Bush did warn Baghdad against invading Kuwait, but added that he wanted better relations with Iraq. Saddam, according to Friedman, ?read this as the old Washington line: stern warnings with a wink and a nod?. He invaded Kuwait expecting the US to look the other way. He was to get the surprise of his life.
Friedman provides us with a good account of how, over the years, US strategy has evolved and it is hair-raising. We get fresh insights into why and how the US planned a war against Afghanistan, how it used Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in its strategy to defeat the very forces, like the Taliban, which it itself had once strongly supported and how Musharraf was trapped. It makes fascinating reading, when Jehadi forces attacked the Indian Parliament, that, says the author ?created a massive crisis in Pakistan.? Apparently, even among Pakistanis, there is serious doubt about the quality of their nuclear devices and delivery systems and Friedman gives the impression that Islamabad is ?bluffing? in this matter and that India is only too well aware of it. According to Friedman, ?given the relative populations (of India and Pakistan) and their concentrations, the Pakistanis would come out on the short end of any nuclear exchange and Musharraf has reason to fear that the Pakistani nuclear force would not deter the Indians from attacking?. The author however, adds that ?the Indians, of course, have no intention of starting any war, let alone a nuclear war?.
However, what apparently is worrying Washington is the degree of control Musharraf has over Pakistan'snuclear weapons considering that the CIA had received reports from a Russian source that the al Qaeda may have obtained a 10-kiloton nuclear device which it planned to detonate in New York. In the US, according to Friedman, ?Pakistan was seen, of all countries as the most unstable and most pro-al Qaeda with the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation?. In an extreme case, the USA was prepared to make a pre-emptive nuclear strike on an unsecured nuclear facility if that was the only way to destroy it. ?The US response to an unlimited crisis was an unlimited threat??and no doubt, Musharraf is deeply aware of it.
Friedman tells us how the US approached Moscow for help in demobilising the Taliban much to the amusement of the Russians who were only too aware that once upon a time the US, through Pakistan, had encouraged the formation of the very Taliban to oust the Russians from Afghanistan! The United States wanted bases in, of all places, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to surround Afghanistan. A deal was struck?the Russians would permit the Americans to have bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, would even provide the Americans with top-tier intelligence on Afghanistan and al Qaeda provided the United States agreed to limit its presence in Central Asia, agree to force Georgia to shut down arms smuggling and also give Russia a free hand in Chechnya and take no further steps to facilitate the disintegration of Russia. It is unbelievable that Russia would permit its once arch enemy to keep its armed force on what once was Russian territory. But then, times had changed.
Reading this book one gets deep insights into American operations in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan specifically and its indirect operations in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Georgia. It also provides insights into how the United States used India to manipulate Pakistan and get it to fight the Taliban and to look out for Osama bin Laden. At the same time the US also knew that it had limits on how far it could push Musharraf without toppling him or plunging Pakistan into unmanageable chaos?the perfect place for al Qaeda to survive and flourish.
Is Friedman'sanalysis believable? Apparently it is, considering that he runs a global intelligence service which is one of the world'smost respected private intelligence firms. It is clear that he writes from a lot of inside knowledge of what the CIA is up to. If the book reads at times like fiction, it is simply because, as the clich? goes, truth is stranger than fiction. Most news agencies merely report what reporters see. What intelligence agencies do is to go behind the obvious to record what goes on behind our backs and seldom gets recorded. Which is why reading this book is an education in political science and diplomacy.