US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power

Book Review

By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall  

US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power by Sajjad Shaukat is, in essence, a review of western military history as it relates to Balance of Power theory. The latter is based on the premise that in the absence of an international body capable of enforcing international law, “balance of power” between dominant nations is the only force capable of containing wanton military aggressors with “excessive” economic and political power. This 2005 book presents the novel theory that the rise of stateless terrorist groups has created an “invisible balance of power,” which performs the same function in curbing US state terrorism as the Soviet Union did prior to its collapse.

Shaukat begins by tracing various balance of power relationships starting with the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece, through the rise of European nation states and the complicated alliances that followed and finally the Cold War balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union. He points out that during the 1945-90 Cold War period, the threat of Mutually Assured (nuclear) Destruction was responsible for a lengthy war-free period in the developed world, although the two super powers continuously jockeyed for political advantage via proxy wars in the Third World.

Shaukat goes on to demonstrate that since the demise of the USSR, the US has felt free to blatantly and repeatedly violate international law. As examples, he cites

•    The 1998 air strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan, condemned by Iran and China as a violation of international law.

•    The 1999 air strikes against Serbia, condemned by Russia and China as “terrorism” and a violation of international law.

•    The 2003 invasion of Iraq, condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan as a violation of international law.

US Military Failures in Iraq and Afghanistan

However since 2003, the political influence of “group terrorism” has replaced the USSR in providing a clear check on US military ambitions. Shaukat points to failure by the US military to achieve their objective of turning Iraq and Afghanistan into economic colonies to improve strategic access to Middle East and Central Asian oil and gas resources.

He then gives numerous examples of political and diplomatic objectives Islamic groups have accomplished via specific terrorist acts. He describes the use of suicide bombers and random bombings to force the UN and Spain to withdraw from Iraq and the US from Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of high profile kidnappings and videotaped executions to pressure the Philippines, Russia, India and Kuwait to withdraw troops and workers.

Suicide Bombings as a Rational Response to Genuine Grievance

Shaukat also disputes propaganda efforts by Western leaders to portray suicide bombers as psychological deranged and/or jealous of western democracy and culture. In fact, I think he makes a compelling case for suicide bombings being a totally rational Third World response to US state terrorism, in the absence of an international body strong enough to prevent the US from victimizing weak nations. He argues that the rise of militant Islamic groups is clearly a direct response to the increasing dominance over the world economy by wealthy nations and their corporations, to the detriment of most of the citizens of the globe. He then points out that suicide bombings are always a direct response to genuine grievances (either state terrorism in the form of massive civilian casualties from carpet bombing, shelling, random shootings at checkpoints and in house to house searches, unlawful detention and torture of innocent civilians, including women and children — or “coercive diplomacy” (imposing free markets, privatization and denationalization on Third World countries). Finally, and most importantly, he points to the wide support Islamic militants movements in Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir receive from intellectuals in Muslim nations.

The Concept of Moral Force

According to Shaukat, the latter relates in part to the greater “moral force” enjoyed by “group terrorism,” in contrast to US state terrorism. Many in the Third World who have directly experienced US “state terrorism” and/or “coercive diplomacy” view the war launched by the Islamic militants as a “just war,” aimed at correcting a massive injustice. In addition to facilitating recruitment, this also gives “group terrorism” substantial military advantage over state terrorism, as it results in greater discipline, morale, cohesion, toughness, courage, and, if necessary, readiness to die.

Shaukat sees very little support in the Third World for US attempts to revise the definition of state terrorism based on the so-called “intent” of the aggressor (for example, if the US accidentally kills civilians in pursuing a terrorist leader or tortures prisoners to access information vital to security, this doesn’t count as terrorism).

Future Dangers and Potential Solutions

Shaukat devotes a full chapter to the potential dangers the world faces from a continuation of the “invisible balance of power.” Chief among them is the real risk Islamic terrorists will access and deploy nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

For me, his final chapter “Lessons for the US” was the most valuable, with the specific solutions it proposes for ending the highly dangerous “invisible balance of power”:

1.  Foreign policy needs to be based on the collective interest of humanity. Developed nations can only secure their global interests by helping to resolve the political, economic and social problems of weak nations that are the breeding ground of terrorism. There will never be economic justice in a world run by Wall Street.

2.  The UN needs to be reformed to give it real power to enforce international law. The weak nations represented by the General Assembly must be given equal power as the Security Council, which is dominated by the countries with the greatest economic and military power.

3.  Secret diplomacy must be ended. Diplomacy must be transparent and open to public scrutiny.

4.  The US needs to end its current policy of “encircling” (economically and militarily) the emerging superpower China. US support of India in this exercise greatly increases the probability of (nuclear) conflict between India and Pakistan.

5.  The US needs to return to incremental diplomacy and political solutions, instead of supporting state terrorism in Palestine and Kashmir — both major breeding grounds for the Islamic militants.

6.  The US needs to respect the traditions and values of Arab states and allow their democracies to develop from below.

7.  The US needs to reduce the debt burden of Third World nations, as poverty and hunger breed terrorism and remain the central obstacle to global security.

8.  The US must recognize that less developed nations need economic democracy prior to political democracy. Using economic aid (as well as sanctions and freezing of assets) to dictate political reform is counterproductive. It hurts ordinary people more than their leaders and only further enables terrorist recruitment.

9.  The US needs to give up their anti-Muslim policies, which are a major recruiting tool for terrorists.

10.  The US must stop using economic aid (as well as sanctions and the freezing of assets) to control political reform — this type of “coercive diplomacy” always hurts ordinary people more than their leaders — and thus further enables terrorist recruitment.

11.   In Iraq, the US needs to cede full military control to the UN, which is the only way other Islamic countries will provide troops to contain sectarian violence.

12.  The US needs to lead a genuine global arms reduction effort to reduce the likelihood of war.

Sajjad Shaukat is a Pakistani writer with a master’s degree from Punjab University in journalism, English. His book can be purchased for $12.50 at

Name of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
Main Title:             Invisible Balance of Power
Author:                    Sajjad Shaukat -ISBN, 9690019589
Published by:       Ferozsons, 60 Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam, Lahore
Price: (In Pakistan) Rs. 495

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