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Still Living World War II

I was watching a political show on TV. A bunch of pundits were arguing about the differing approaches taken by China and USA in terms of foreign policy. The overall theme of the discussion was how the emerging countries like China, India, Brazil are not doing enough as far as fixing the world.

Some things one of the pundits said and one thing suddenly dawned to me. USA foreign policy is still so much affected by the world war II events.

In second world war, USA and Britain emerged victorious. The main reason allies went to war was not ideological, but political and self-interest based. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s how the whole world behaves.

But then as Nazis were defeated, the atrocities they committed came in front of the world. Those atrocities were so gruesome that Nazis became the gold standard of evil. This, in turn, handed over blank check of validation to Allied powers. Almost everything they did was right and virtuous.

I am not trying to criticize, just to analyze how perceptions develop. This world war victories enforced “intervention” model. It something is going wrong in the world, then it must be fixed by allied power intervention.

This is where the traditional mindset in China and India differs. Having been around for many centuries, these countries will and always be more passive than western powers when it comes to responding to world crises.

From Western viewpoint, the individual has free will and he/she tries to exercise the free will. If this free will is taking a wrong turn, then it must be stopped. From Eastern viewpoint, the relationship between individual and rest of the world is far more complex than free will. If you consider Hindu beliefs like reincarnation and Karma, or Buddhism/Confucianism concepts like Tao and eternal flow of events, what is happening to you today is at least in part consequence of what you did yesterday. Since by every action you are taking, you are dealing with this vastly complex system, you better be careful in taking action.

An American is inclined to believe that USA and its Allies saved the world from being overrun by Nazis and that they took most of the brunt of war deserves commendation. An Eastern thinker is likely to argue that the very reason second world war happened was because Allied forces overreached in first world war. They crushed Germany badly, which gave rise to a sense of victimization, which gave the Nazis a fertile ground to launch their agenda. So had they been cautious to begin with, there would be no second world war.

Who is right? We will never know. Because the world is such a vast and complex place, a simple cause effect logic almost never works in terms of big events like world wars.

Extending the same thinking in today’s world, Western allied powers are more often prone to intervene, expecting the same kind of validation they got after defeating Nazis. Whereas China and India are more prone to just “take backseat and let the things sort themselves out” approach.


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