The State of the World | Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

IN the space available one can only use broad and selective brushstrokes. The world is challenged by climate change; nuclear weapons; autonomous artificial intelligence; population pressures; scarcities and uncertain access to essential resources; zero-sum ideologies and strategies; state and non-state terror including the use of drones, injustice and denial of basic human rights without prospect of redress; and the general lack of political ‘wisdom’ ie the ability to combine intelligent analyses with moral courage for humanitarian and just outcomes.

Today’s world does not suggest these challenges will be met. If they are not radically alleviated they will radically worsen. The wisdom of individuals needs to be translated into the wisdom of institutions, organisations and societies. This is a massive undertaking. It is also a survival imperative. Without a globally operational moral vision, technology developments and applications will eventually threaten human life on earth.

This realisation should provide a globally shared framework for policymaking including conflict management and resolution. This has never been as urgent as it is today. Political ‘leaders’ who refuse to act on this imperative because of a lack of education, courage and probity are unacceptable national liabilities in today’s world. The costs of their acts of commission and omission are ultimately fatal for their countries.

International polls indicate the United States is widely viewed as the major security threat to humanity. Its policies since the collapse of the USSR, and especially since 9/11, have resulted in the destruction of several Muslim countries and in traumatising Muslim society. The US-led war on terror has elicited and exacerbated pathological militant responses that threaten global civilisation. US support for puppet and corrupt autocrats has made it a major challenge to global “democracy development”. The anti-Muslim sentiment proudly displayed by many of its presidential candidates shows how politically regressive it has become. Pakistan is ranked not much behind the US as a security threat.

In East Asia and the western Pacific the US and its allies seek to contain an emerging China. It has encouraged Japan to reinterpret Article 9 of its pacifist constitution — the one gift from America to Japan worth preserving. As the only people to have been ‘nuked’ the Japanese set an ideal for humanity to strive towards. Unfortunately, this first step towards a more militarist Japan could eventually lead it to independently develop a nuclear deterrent capability.

What will this entail for US-China relations and the future peace of Asia? China has made clear to the US it must choose whom it wants as its main strategic partner for peace in East Asia: an assertive Japan that in conjunction with other countries seeks to contain China, or a China that espouses an Asian collective security system and a global partnership with the US that eschews regional and global hegemony? China may itself need to assure a number of regional countries, including Japan, about its longer-term aims. But to try to strategically confine China within its coastal waters risks becoming a casus belli.

The Mediterranean has become a ‘Muslim cemetery’. The US and its Nato allies have destroyed the countries from where millions of Muslims have been displaced and are seeking to escape political and economic terror. This unspeakable tragedy has been largely spawned by the Western military-media-corporate-government complex, or the ‘Masters of the Universe’ ie the globally ruling 0.1pc. They seek ‘full-spectrum dominance’ to preserve a global status quo that effectively excludes the vast majority of mankind from any prospect of living less wretched lives.

This is a war against humanity ‘hidden in plain sight’. No peace can be built on such wretched foundations. No momentum towards addressing global challenges can develop through a strategy of exclusion and hegemony. The US, nevertheless, could yet be the ‘world’s best hope’ — to catalyse not lead — a global movement towards overcoming these challenges. If its political reality can begin to resemble its self-image it could, indeed, help change the global prospect for the better. Today, however, this remains a forlorn hope.

As for Europe, it combines enormous achievement with conveniently low political self-esteem. There seems to be no US strategic folly with which it will not eventually concur. It is a major ‘deadbeat’ neighbour of the Middle East. Its dazzling intellectual traditions have grown barren as it betrays its enlightenment values. If the European Project falters it will be due to its own insipidity. Hopefully, the desperate migrants may yet jolt Europe into more active global responsibility. Otherwise, the future failure of the West may lie more in Europe than in the US.

The developing world, as the likely first victims of neglecting global challenges, can no longer cite their relative impotence for not seeking to demonstrate global possibilities on a national and regional scale. Their perennial conflicts and cynical manipulations of traditional faith are enduring betrayals of their peoples. Their elitist and self-serving national narratives exclude any pretence of honesty and are, accordingly, sterile with regard to tackling impending disasters. BRICS and Corridors are hopeful developments. But they are not well integrated into national policies. They are taken as opportunities, not commitments. Accordingly, they generally fail to become transformational multipliers for national and regional development.

In Pakistan, extractive elites survive on diverting attention away from root causes of social injustice and violence as well as policies that have unfailingly led to national humiliation and isolation. Our political system co-opts every pretender and dooms every decent national prospect. It provides an ideal setting for charlatans and mountebanks. Meaningless statements of resolve and half-measures are counted as achievements. The system as it functions is profoundly unconstitutional and anti-Pakistan. It has to be thoroughly restructured and reoriented before it can begin to address domestic, regional and global challenges. But those who might help bring about rapid and radical change do no such thing.

There is a fashionable but lazy intellectual tendency to resign oneself to a national fate our rulers have determined. Sadly, a passive people will endure without virtue.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

Published in Dawn October 3rd, 2015

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