Jan Myrdal (83) is a Swedish leftist intellectual, writer and columnist. Son of Nobel laureates Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, he has written more than 30 books and has lived in China, India and the Gulf countries. He will deliver the second Anuradha Gandhy Memorial Lecture on ‘Will the US meet its Waterloo in Iraq and Afghanistan?’ at St Xavier’s College on Saturday. Ghandy, a civil liberties activist, died in 2008. Her husband, Kobad, was arrested last year on charges of being a Naxalite. Hindustan Times speaks to Myrdal.
The Indian government views Naxalism as an internal security threat. What do you have to say about this?
Naxalism is a response to the social situation. It’s like the peasant wars of Europe. There, the peasants would have killed the tax collector, here so many kill themselves. It is not a criminal problem but a problem of social structure.
Do you think the US will meet its Waterloo in Iraq and Afghanistan?
It is possible, but not probable that this could be the US’s Waterloo. That would mean that the different powers, such as the European Union and China, would switch off their investments and the war would stop in five minutes. In Napoleonic terms, the US is more likely to meet its Spain. When Napoleon invaded Spain, the peasants fought back, they slowly sapped the strength of the French. Napoleon had not understood the psychology of the French just like the US does not understand the psychology of the Pashtuns. Afghanistan cannot be ruled from the outside.
How can one curb radical Islamic terror that is seemingly fuelled by the US presence in the Middle East?
The troops should get out of Afghanistan and Iraq. But this is not a religious war. The invading forces have economic interests — they want the oil. But Muslims do perceive it as a clash of civilisations.