The Ultimate Goal – Uncovers the art and craft of narratives
Pradeep E S
The Ultimate Goal – Manage narratives to manage your destiny..… tell your story first, any other story thereafter will only be a reaction….
Former Spy chief Vikram Sood, in his book, The Ultimate Goal dissects and uncovers the art and craft of building narratives. He is seemingly well versed with the crafty business of narratives being done, undone and rarely course corrected. The book delves mostly on the narratives that were built in the West or by agencies controlled by the West or built elsewhere to suit the Western perceptions to meet the ultimate goal of global dominance. The book is an elaboration, in 12 chapters, with thorough research and most importantly, supported by empirical knowledge of a three decade long career, of the game of perceptions and narratives and of the structures that help assemble, disseminate and dismantle them. The style of presentation has narrowed the scope for imagination, but has opened up avenues of mind to explore unbound.
Solidifying the pure wind
Every country has it’s share of brilliance and certain levels of ignorance. The USA is no exception. Sood quotes the survey conducted by the National Geography Society and Roper ASW among Americans aged between 18 and 24. The American troops had just landed to fight terrorism in Afghanistan in 2001. Around 83% of the Americans surveyed failed to locate Afghanistan on the world map. More than fewer of the surveyed American youth couldn`t find New York on a map of United States (p 5).
But the narratives are created and sustained not by average American voter but by a handful of elite who have assumed the “white man`s burden” to uphold and fulfill the duties of the nation. They form, what is called the Super Class, determine the narration, construct and package them subtly, sometimes overtly. Sood doesn’t fail to mention the agencies, structures and more than a few powerful individuals who hold the cards. Henry Kissinger never escapes a mention. Much of the stories and the perceptions that have been consumed by the world at large, for a good part of 20th century have been either cooked by Kissinger or have been overseen by the geopolitical strategist.
The Story of narratives begin with the assassination of JFK and the battle of perceptions that followed no sooner. The state and the powerful private agencies which control the delivery systems grab the crux and in tandem, create narratives around the scenario. This includes the secret societies, the media, book fairs, literature festivals, think tanks, lobbies and the front organizations. From the fall of the Berlin wall, invasion of Iraq, power shifts in the guise of restoring democracy these institutions and forums have played pivot to creating the American narrative unfailingly. Because the game of narrative is all about mastering the political language which is designed to make lies sound truthful and to give an appearance of solidity to the pure wind (p 6). The former officer engages his readers as an affable story teller.
What a colossus shall we be?
Americans do spend considerable spaces of mind and the media to manage domestic dichotomies of Income and perception disparities. Members of the trinity of CFR, Trilateral commission and the Bilderberg group sway the internal dynamics of public perception too. Sood asserts that the modern nation states are the neo empires by design which can be undone only by reluctance to be one or by a more dominant force gathering global superiority over the framework of debates. The privileged group of elite West which shapes the international discourse handpicks leaders, influences the political leadership, and determines the future faces of the polity that never shies away from being a devout Christian. Their narrative revolves around democracy, individual freedom and dignity than engaging in a religious debate that would jeopardize attaining the ultimate goal. The disintegration of USSR not only gave the USA an edge to reign supreme on the global stage but also made Europe more dependent on it for it’s share of international perception superiority. Europe, once a colonial power was reduced to a tributary of the USA, by desire. Why desire? It is the desire that helps design the destiny. Thomas Jefferson had desired so in 1816. “Old Europe will have to lean on our shoulders, and to hobble along by our side, under the monkish trammels of priests and kings, as she can. What a colossus shall we be” (p 33).
No radioactivity in Hiroshima!
What prompts the political leadership to convince the masses and reshape the in-house opinion in favour of the dispensation of the day? Well, the answer is the media embedded in the fighting troops! Should there be a war? Should the troops be pulled back? All depends on the reports that emanate from the ‘ground’. That serves as a gospel too, by design. While the Miller`s report helped the Bush administration carry on with the misadventure in Iraq, by deflecting the otherwise unhappy public opinion largely to it’s support, so did the report of W.H. Lawrence in 1945 soon after the Hiroshima blast which he headlined – No radioactivity in Hiroshima (p 76), to cover up the magnitude of devastation that the US had inflicted on Japan.
Former chief of R&AW brings to focus the ‘holy’ alliance of Hollywood and the CIA that never hesitate to ally and make a movie that depicts the intelligence and technical superiority of the USA. The CIA “assists” the film makers with the script that falls in line with the White House and/or the Super Class. Some of the Hollywood stars are also members of the Super class who enjoy a free walk in some of the strictly prohibited corridors and access to some of the sensible documents and a ‘whole hearted’ assistance of Pentagon, even at the cost of incurring the wrath of insiders. But that is considered to be OK.
Unsurprisingly, none of the facts stated in the book makes an overstatement. What the Spy missed here is to draw the parallel with the systems of communications back home. The culture of statecraft at work in India Vis a Vis the evolved machinations of the West. These unwritten lines are the only open spaces where a reader is allowed to imagine things.
“…didn’t upset my breakfast”
Does the US really care for world opinion? No. Says Sood. When the UN overwhelmingly disapproved of US military intervention in Grenada in 1983, Ronald Reagan quipped, it didn’t upset his breakfast (p 128). Ultimate goal of war might not be to attain or restore peace always. Many a times the motive of war is the profits earned out of it through arms deals, defense procurements and other covert deals kept out of the public glare. With impressive anecdotes and published documents substantiating his arguments, Sood, in the hindsight attempts a trial of the arms dealers and the lobby that works for them. This attempt of Mr. Sood serves very little to the readers who would confront the question about India’s participation in all these global events. India happened to be a spectator to the remarkable international developments to say the least, which the Chief Spy narrates with much aplomb.
Ex chief of RAW quotes Samuel P. Huntington “relations between Islam and Christianity has always been stormy … both have been other’s other (p 158). Whenever the Christian West had to confront the Islam in the form of State (Saddam Hussein) or the terror outfit Al Qaeda (Osama bin Laden), the war was in a way, between the creator and created. Before going out for an all-out war on Iraq a narrative had to be manufactured. The USA along with it’s Christian friend(s) constructed the theory of Iraq possessing the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). It was disproved, but the burden was on the US to carry the narrative forward. Mr. Sood deals with the topic of West versus Islam, the bonhomie of the UK with the USA on the issues of Middle East (oil politics) and dethroning of Saddam in the name of democracy in a matured fashion. None of the details seem to go unmissed. Here the Spy master scores amply.
Diagnosis of real disease
Touching upon the ongoing Covid pandemic across the world, Sood gives the reader a ring side view of modus operandi of Russia and the China. Keeping aside which ideology is at the helm of affairs in New Delhi the author discloses the KGBs penetration in India’s government, intelligence, foreign ministries and the police when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister (p 187). Political correctness doesn’t match the profile of a Spy, intelligence does. Both these chapters are testimonies to his profile as an “ex chief of R&AW”.
China has now penetrated the US media, Sood says. In 2019, China Daily a mouthpiece of Chinese government has purchased more than 500 pages in American print media. China now has an influence in America’s tinsel town. Richard Gere, a Hollywood biggie was dumped from his own fraternity owing to China pressure because of his closeness to the Dalai Lama. These are but valuable insights through the eyes of a seasoned Spy. He has hung his boots though.
Struggle for memory: The India story
It is important to make India’s past an inspiration for it’s future (p 284), a positive sounding Sood opines. The reiteration that one who controls the narrative controls the world order finds a mention in the concluding chapter as well. A rhythmic style of narration throughout the book is clearly visible. The author is neither in haste nor delaying unduly to end his side of the story. Mr. Sood, recommends a solution keeping in mind the past, present and also the posterity – “Hindus do not need constitutional amendment to ensure secularism; India is secular because the majority is secular. Perhaps it is time that Hindus have a country to their name where others can live with equal rights under a Uniform Civil Code (p 287), lest the concerned forget, the Spy chief quotes Milan Kundera – “The struggle of a man against power is struggle of memory against forgetting” (p 289).
Mr. Vikram Sood’s book easily qualifies as a manual for IR enthusiasts and to the academicians who want to learn, unlearn and relearn the art and craft of the study of Narratives. The book has been received well among the common public is an important indicator of growing thirst to know about who, where and how the perceptions are decided, constructed and disseminated. Officers who demit the office, taking up such intellectual work serves the seekers to dive deep into the issues that have got a place in this book and travel beyond. Presumably that IS the quintessential narrative of the book.