Nepali Times
Guest Column
Not the beginning


"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." So observed Winston Churchill in 1942 as he continued his epic leadership of the free world against Nazi Germany.

We are also facing a difficult and dangerous time in our history. The raw emotions in the Nepali streets in April are reminders for any leader, elected or otherwise, of what lurks beneath the thin veneer of civility: absolute poverty, class, caste, gender and ethnic issues, a large unemployment rate, poor education and an untenable political arrangement.

The April protests did not lay to rest these demons but brought them to the streets in a near anarchical conflagration that might have had negative long-term effects for an already battered society.

If Nepal is ever to get any progressive momentum, the leaders of this movement must effectively deal with the Maoists or we will continue to fail in education, health, technology, governance, foreign investments, and commerce. These cannot be delivered through protest and "every-man-a-king" politics but from the daily grind of governance, sound economic policies, and strong leadership.

Elites, even in mature democracies, are uncomfortable or have downright disdain for military culture. Some of our own elites, who were at the vanguard of the current campaign in April, are no different. Some of the sentiment about the RNA is justified. But unless our civil society members and politicians in Nepal have invented an alternative paradigm to security, one of the first needs of humanity, they need to recognise that there is now an imperious need to reflect and radically adapt their thinking so they become protectors of a democratic state by military force, if necessary.

Benjamin Franklin, a "civil society" member of considerable talent and repute, took it upon himself during his tenure as Clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly to raise an armed militia despite the prevailing pacifist ethos of the Quakers, who dominated the Assembly in pre-revolutionary colonial America. Franklin raised the militia because he understood, as Edmund Morgan, the historian notes, that "Its people were unprepared to do anything (for security) themselves because everyone was looking for someone else to do something."

Our intellectuals, activists and political leaders have enormous faith that talks, political arrangements, the Norwegians or some third-party will solve our existing security dilemma and lead to "permanent" peace and continue to give the Maoists a pass in almost Ostrich-like fashion.

Will the leaders continue to engage in delusions that peace an automatic dividend of democracy? What if the constitutional assembly proceeds under murderous threats or the truce is yet another well-timed sham? Our masses need to be educated about the real possibility of a resumption of military action if all options fail. Our media needs to educate the public that many current democratic societies have defended themselves by military force during critical periods in
their history.

The prime minister and his advisers must be willing to look at the Maoist solution from all possible angles including all 'peaceful' approaches but maintain a strong military option, or they will find themselves not in the company of Churchill or Franklin but in that of Chamberlain and Daladier- historical emblems of craven appeasement who believed they could negotiate with Hitler and failed.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)