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More Fist Fights and Less Drone Strikes

The image of Chinese and Indian soldiers bashing one another with fists and sticks likely seems silly and immature to many Western observers. Soldiers brawling up close as they contest the complicated borders between their two nations, at times gaining several feet in territory, losing some or maintaining the precarious status quo. Scraps between regional rivals, releasing tension while reminding their opposite other that men with determination, clenched fists and resolve will throw down should they be provoked. It’s masculine. Few die, injuries do occur but no populations are starved to death, cities bombed or families drone struck into mangled flesh and bone. Anyone can remotely pilot a drone from afar, someday soon no one will. But few will stand on a remote border and throw down against other men.

Very real tensions exist between China and India, they went to war in 1962 and 1967 where thousands died. Ever since there have been a series of clashes and exchanges, though in more recent years the violence has been isolated to specific contested areas along the border, where both sides shout insults and engage in mostly bare handed combat. Perhaps the realisation that each have nuclear weapons has granted the war planners and political masters wisdom enough to comprehend that a shooting war may be unwinnable, so tensions are best resolved with fists. It is also likely that the leadership of both nations along with the population are not distant from potential fall out or consequences of any battle, the fighting close to home.

Unlike modern Western perceptions of conflict between nations to be witnessed through the screen while a generation of mostly young men are sacrificed as fodder to kill, die and suffer injuries in the name of geo-political self interest or to indulge in domestic party political rituals known as liberal democracy. Where the blood of distant strangers can sometimes sway the ballot box a certain way or ensure a credibility of political candidates. Firing cruise missiles into a region is viewed as “presidential’, even from a belligerent media or supposed political rivals. Murdering Palestinian children has secured Netanyahu’s position as Prime Minister and in the 1990’s the Clinton white house was known for its Tomahawk diplomacy, where cruise missiles would be fired to send a message or distract from a scandal. President Trump even using the same tactic on Syria during his presidency. Whereas for India and China the exchanges are mostly low-key and discreet, violent but not deadly. After the clashes, both sides military leaders intervene to de-escalate and usually resume talks. None are blown to pieces while on a diplomatic mission in a foreign airport.

The fist fights on the Sino-Indian border peaked during 2020 to 2022, along the contested Line of Actual Control which is about 3380 kilometres (2100 miles) long. During the summer of 2020 in the Galwan Valley one of the larger skirmish clashes occurred, several soldiers were injured in the exchange. The Chinese government has been reclaiming territory in the region by ‘slicing’ slithers of the disputed territory incrementally in their favour. In conjunction with patrols crossing the border and intentional airborne violations, the policy has been subtle. Previously the Indian government had ignored the micro land grabs by the Chinese, only recently sending large amounts of soldiers to bolster the region to deter and contest such acts. The 2020 clash at Galwan saw the Chinese winning the brawl which led to more land being claimed in their favour.

It has also been claimed that the border clashes were intentionally provoked by the Chinese in an attempt to stir pride and act as a distraction during their harsh response to COVID-19. While also acting as a form of protest against Indian infrastructure development near the border region. During the numerous brawls Chinese and Indian soldiers were captured, all returned soon after. Communication between both powers continued at all levels after each skirmish. The soldiers have been forbidden from using firearms, their discipline and pride ensures that they remain armed with barb-wire and nail enhanced clubs at best as they face one another.

Both the Chinese and Indian governments continue infrastructure projects along the LAC, bolstering the region with military forces and workers making the area a key focus for both sides. The tension will continue but it’s also possible that both sides may continue to communicate and develop a trade and exchange where the locals, soldiers included interact with one another and grow relationships despite any cultural or racial differences and political incentives to fight.

Similar brawls, though far more violent have occurred between the two Korea’s, at times including US servicemen along the far shorter border separating those two nations that are are still technically at war. The most famous being the ‘Hatchet incident’ or ‘Poplar Tree incident’ when two United Nations Command officers were murdered with an axe by North Korean soldiers in 1976. The murdered American UN soldiers were part of a work party that was cutting down poplar trees in the DMZ. They were attacked by North Korean soldiers and brutally killed. Three days later US and South Korean soldiers launched Operation Paul Bunyan as a show of force, cutting down the trees. The North Korean forces backed down and took responsibility for the incident. No wider war erupted.

Exchanges do occur on and off between the Indo-Pakistan border though most of the tension is publicly observed with a degree of flamboyance in a daily ceremony performed between the two belligerent states. Crowds fill bleachers to watch their respective ‘sides’ perform the border ‘dance’, each sides soldiers pea-cocking in their parade ground best, marching and lowering their flags in aggressive magnificence. The ritual at the Attari-Wagah border is constant, symbolic and a place of pride for both sides. A tourist attracting spectacle. The crowds invited to cheer for their national team, each lowering their flag at the same time, marching against, though with one another in a co-ordinated cohesion that is impressive. Ending the ritual with a salute and handshake. No nuclear missiles have been launched and even recently their have been talks of trade returning between both nations despite a 2019 pause. After all they have more in common with one another than they do with outsider nations who benefit from their fighting one another. The handshake of respect firm, though amicable at their border.

It’s a cliché to quote Frederic Bastiat, “When goods stop crossing borders, armies will,’ but some of the worlds most contested regions also exhibit a degree of trade, when the merchants and people are allowed. Between the two Korea’s there is at time an economic co-operation and moments where the sunbeams of peace may penetrate American and North Korean bitterness, allowing the South to reach out to their more oppressive brothers up North. Taiwan and China have had a healthy continuance of trade with one another, unspoken are politics and ideologies, humanity can at times rise above such pollutants when people are fed, smile and prosper. In 2023, a year after the height of the border brawls between India and China, both nations expanded trade, even forming a trading bloc with one another.

There will also be moments where tensions are raised, clashes occur. The fist fights and unfortunately even axe murders between warriors, far more preferable than mass killing. Civilised policies that are somehow aimed at both punishing and liberating the people that are being murdered to inspire them to reject their domestic rulers in favour of the foreign rulers who are trying to starve and kill them is a degree of political academics that few of us can afford to graduate in. Though it is the prevalent Western doctrine, especially embraced in Washington, to kill many and throw some aid their way as well. Threaten, and bully without compromise or consideration for perspectives other than ones own. It is a policy adopted by allies and those inspired by such a strategy, only ever ending in death, destruction and the alienation of populations.

For all of the pretensions, when it comes to military honour and ethics, there continues to be the obscene involvement of killing unarmed women and children. The universally understood to be innocent. The vulgar violence of collateral damage, the strategic intention to genocide by any other name. The mass murder of a population justified by the intention to cause a capitulation of a rival government, yet there is no honour to any of that. To stand in front of your enemy, with clenched fist alongside your comrade, to meet a foe in battle, as a man is far more honourable than the technohorror that has led to the death of millions, and which probably may end up destroying the planet. Mass destruction all often in the name of rather arbitrary, pathetic reasons conjured up by the very cowards, who would be too frightened to face their enemy in combat.

While the border brawls may on the surface seem immature to a comfortable observer they are far more preferable to blowing up families with reckless abandon. Then again to most comfortable observers, what’s the difference? Men fighting with dignity with no deaths occurring is often looked down upon by the civilised who prefer death tolls to rise to thousands, except off course if the dead is a familiar. Despite the virtues of Western civilisation and the credentials of liberal democracy and lip service to free trade, it is likely that even in these contested regions of the Orient goods and interactions may soon rise, despite the occasional brawls. If it was going to be a fist fight in some remote region that defends a nation, that is one brawl I would eagerly volunteer for, even as an ‘anarchist’, far more dignity standing the line alongside other men punching on, than the wars that burn babies to death. Though the question is, do you believe in statist nationalism enough to get in a fist fight with other men or would you at best stay at a distance to shoot strangers or perhaps like most cuckold the killing to paid professionals.

Then again, maybe you just like killing kids over some line dead dudes drew on a map. That os the civilised thing to do after all.

March, 2024

Published inAll Articles and EssaysPhilosophy, Society and LibertyWar, History and Foreign Policy