World dis­or­der

The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL - Mu­nir Akram

HENRY Kissinger's last book World Or­der could more aptly have been en­ti­tled ' World Dis­or­der'. As he ob­serves, there has never been a ' world or­der'. To­day, in a glob­alised world, as dis­parate civil­i­sa­tions meet in the midst of a his­toric tran­si­tion from Western dom­i­na­tion to mul­ti­po­lar­ity, con­struct­ing a world or­der has be­come an ex­is­ten­tial com­pul­sion. How­ever, the chal­lenges in the way of achiev­ing this are com­plex and daunting.

Asian drama The most sig­nif­i­cant evo­lu­tion un­der way is the mul­ti­fac­eted re­la­tion­ship be­tween a pow­er­ful yet anx­ious Amer­ica and a ris­ing China. The Greek his­to­rian, Thucy­dides, posited the in­evitabil­ity of con­flict be­tween a rul­ing and a ris­ing power. Kissinger lists 15 such in­stances in his­tory of which 10 led to con­flict.

Hope­fully, given the sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­de­pen­dence be­tween the US and China and their con­ver­gence of in­ter­est on myr­iad re­gional and global is­sues, such as cli­mate change and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, they will be able to avoid the Thucy­dides trap.

How­ever, the points of fric­tion and ri­valry are grow­ing: the US-led al­liances around China's pe­riph­ery; US in­ter­ven­tion in China's mar­itime dis­putes; the emerg­ing Sino-US naval ri­valry; com­pet­ing trade pacts and de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tions. The 'mus­cu­lar' rhetoric of US Repub­li­can can­di­dates is matched by a Bei­jing lead­er­ship which is no longer will­ing to 'hide' China's strength or tol­er­ate chal­lenges to its vi­tal in­ter­ests. A Cold War looms over Asia. Rus­sian re­asser­tion This Asian Cold War may well be ac­com­pa­nied by a re­vived one in Europe. The Wester­nengi­neered ouster of the pro-Rus­sian Ukrainian regime crossed Putin's red line. Moscow's re­sponse, in­clud­ing the takeover of Crimea and "pro­tec­tion" of eth­nic Rus­sians in East­ern Ukraine, was pre­dictable.

Putin is un­likely to be cowed by eco­nomic pun­ish­ment. His­tor­i­cally, the Rus­sians have a high thresh­old for suf­fer­ing. Con­fronta­tion will yield ac­tions like Moscow's in­ter­ven­tion in Syria. The US will quadru­ple mil­i­tary spend­ing in Europe and de­ploy a full brigade on Rus­sia's bor­ders, pro­vok­ing Moscow with­out chang­ing the mil­i­tary bal­ance. Un­less the more mea­sured ap­proach of Ger­man and French lead­ers avoids a mu­tu­ally de­bil­i­tat­ing con­fronta­tion, ten­sions could lead to a con­flict by ac­ci­dent or mis­cal­cu­la­tion.

Euro­pean dis­ar­ray Apart from the con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia, Europe faces eco­nomic stag­na­tion; mas­sive mi­gra­tion and political divi­sion. Af­ter al­most a decade, Europe re­mains mired in eco­nomic stag­na­tion. The com­mon cur­rency, which was sup­posed to in­te­grate Europe into a ro­bust eco­nomic area, has in­stead con­strained the abil­ity of its weaker economies to re­vive growth. Greece may yet be forced to leave the eu­ro­zone. The eco­nomic re­ces­sion, the fail­ure to in­te­grate mi­nori­ties and the large Mus­lim in­flux have led to the sharp rise of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and neo-fas­cist par­ties in Europe. The schism be­tween West and East Europe has be­come more vis­i­ble. Re­sis­tance is grow­ing to Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions, and to the very idea of the Euro­pean Union. Bri­tain will shortly hold a ref­er­en­dum whether to stay in the EU.

Many Euro­peans see eco­nomic sal­va­tion in a closer re­la­tion­ship with China. Inevitably, this will re­quire nor­mal­i­sa­tion with Rus­sia and weaken the transat­lantic ties with the US. Europe's strate­gic role is no longer clear.

Mus­lim chaos The nu­mer­ous in­ter­nal and in­ter-state con­flicts rag­ing across the Mus­lim world to­day sig­nify the fi­nal col­lapse of the West's colo­nial legacy. Within the Mus­lim world, the forces of the sta­tus quo, of the mod­ernisers, and 'Is­lamists' are vy­ing for supremacy. The most ex­treme among them seek to im­pose their vi­sion by force and vi­o­lence. Each of th­ese three com­pet­ing forces of­ten over­lap and are them­selves di­vided into fac­tions and sub­groups.

The past and on-go­ing in­volve­ment of for­eign pow­ers has in­ten­si­fied, com­pli­cated and pro­longed the in­ter­nal strug­gles within Is­lamic coun­tries. The re­vival of the geopo­lit­i­cal ri­valry be­tween Shia Iran, and its al­lies, and Sunni Saudi Ara­bia, its Arab al­lies and other Sunni pow­ers, like Turkey, has in­ten­si­fied Mus­lim con­flicts mil­i­tar­ily and strength­ened ide­o­log­i­cally mo­ti­vated groups on both sides.

In many ways, Is­lam's wars to­day re­sem­ble the Thirty Years War in 17th­cen­tury Europe. That war was ended by the ne­go­ti­ated Peace of West­phalia, con­structed through a bal­ance of Euro­pean pow­ers and agree­ment to al­low each power to im­pose its own religious or­der within its ter­ri­tory. To­day, the Mus­lim world needs its own ver­sion of a West­phalian peace which ac­com­mo­dates the es­sen­tial in­ter­ests of the ma­jor Is­lamic states and builds a new post­colo­nial re­gional se­cu­rity or­der within the Mus­lim world. Re­liance on ex­ter­nal pow­ers will not pro­duce sus­tain­able peace in the Is­lamic world.

Mod­ern com­plex­i­ties So­lu­tions to the world's con­cur­rent con­flicts are made more dif­fi­cult by the na­ture of mod­ern com­bat. To­day, the mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the ma­jor and some mi­nor pow­ers are enor­mous. Since this makes di­rect con­flict be­tween th­ese pow­ers un­think­able, most con­flicts now are a com­bi­na­tion of con­ven­tional, clan­des­tine and ir­reg­u­lar warfare. The cal­cu­lus of mil­i­tary strength and the de­ter­mi­na­tion of vic­tory or de­feat is more com­plex. It is im­pos­si­ble to reach political set­tle­ments when the war­ring par­ties are un­clear if and when they are win­ning or los­ing.

Most of the con­flicts around the world, do­mes­tic and in­ter-state, are the di­rect or in­di­rect con­se­quence of ei­ther in­jus­tice or poverty. De­spite the United Na­tions Char­ter and nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional pre­scrip­tions, in­jus­tice against the weak re­mains the global norm. An ef­fec­tive and im­par­tial mech­a­nism to en­sure the just res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes is a crit­i­cal pre­req­ui­site for the set­tle­ment of cur­rent and fu­ture con­flicts.

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