Revisiting Newton’s third law

Newton’s third law of motion states that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction that acts with the same momentum and the opposite velocity’. In slightly different words, ‘when two bodies interact, they apply forces to one another that are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction’. The third law is also known as the law of action and reaction. Examples of Newton’s third law of motion are omnipresent in everyday life. For example, engineers apply Newton’s third law when designing rockets and other projectile devices. The same law is equally applicable in our routine human interactions and more pertinently, in global states’ policies. That begs the question as to how and why a technologically advanced country with the strongest economy and military might continually ignore this law while indulging in interventions in dozens of countries and regions all over the globe and expect no reaction in response to its ‘hammer versus nail policies’?

One wonders as to why a global superpower with the largest and strongest military might in human history never seems to learn from its own blunders and keeps covering the descent on the slippery geo-strategic slopes by regular spread of false narratives through compliant think tanks/advisers and with monopoly over all the facets of global media.

The analyses of the US government’s declassified documents captured from Osama Bin Laden collated by Nelly Lahoud (the author of the book The Bin Laden Papers) provide an unparalleled glimpse into bin Laden’s mind and offer a portrait of the US “war on terror” as it was seen through the eyes of its chief target. To Osama bin Laden and the other men who planned 9/11, the attack was no mere act of terrorism. To them, it represented something far grander: the opening salvo of a campaign of revolutionary reactive violence that would usher in a new historical era. Although bin Laden was inspired by religion, his aims were geopolitical. Al Qaeda’s mission was to undermine (or contest an ever exploitative West led by the US) as the contemporary world order of nation states and recreate the historical Ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims that was once held together by a common political authority.

But Washington and its allies have come to realise (or at least they should have) that an open-ended war on terrorism is futile and that a successful counterterrorism policy must address the legitimate political grievances that al Qaeda claims to champion—for example, US support for dictatorships in the Middle East. Washington cannot quite claim victory against al Qaeda and its ilk, which retain the ability to inspire deadly, if small-scale, attacks. The past two decades and US’ forced exit from Afghanistan and unavoidable departure from Iraq, Syria, Libya and some other places due to the unbearable human, economic and political cost, however, have made clear just how shortsighted and counterproductive the use of excessive military power as leading a component of the foreign policy was.

Hoping against the hope, it is recommended that the US administration and more-so the Presidents should drive home a lesson from Newton’s third law (action and reaction) and be mindful that “Reputations rise and fall almost as regularly as the tides.” For centuries, the world has been hearing from the American founding fathers about high morals and the value of freedom. However, in the last seventy years, America’s top hierarchy has consistently ignored that “our world is constantly in change and the great change is always toward freedom. When we speak of freedom we speak of equality. Nations will rise and fall but equality remains the ideal.”

Inadequate American general knowledge notwithstanding, it may be remembered that “history is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity”. If the American deep state remains committed in proving to the world that “No, the shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim, for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors,” their stature as the world’s leader won’t stay for much longer.

Saleem Qamar Butt

Saleem Qamar Butt

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