INFLUENTIAL contemporary thinker and author George Friedman observed that the modern geopolitical world changes after every 20 years. Towards the end of the 19th century, European ascendancy was complete. By 1920, the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German and Ottoman empires were gone. Communism was established in Russia; peripheral powers like the US and Japan started gaining strength. A defeated Germany of the First World War was on the rampage in 1940 and laid waste to almost all of Europe. By 1950, the sun had set on the victorious Britain, which shrivelled back to an island. The American era began after the Second World War. It was unthinkable to assail that power. Then a tiny Vietnam shattered its myth of invincibility. It was defeated but not down.
The geopolitical tectonic plates further moved in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Soviet Union became history and the Berlin wall came crashing down. The end of history was proclaimed. China had started its forward march. The confident US and its fraternity in Europe waxed lyrical about the virtues of globalisation and free trade making nations’ borders virtual. It was said that money moves so fast today that they should put speed stripes on it.
And then came 9/11. America was shocked out of its wits.
Without wasting its breath, it declared that the world would not be the same again; flexed its muscles and overran Afghanistan, one of the most backward countries. Al Qaeda started biting it, and its allies, like a flea on different parts of the body. American values of the rule of law in war and peace evaporated as the country plunged into a global conflict and started bombing countries, dispensing with the formality of first declaring war on them. Mosques, funeral processions, marriage parties — in short, everything became fair game. All civilian casualties and destruction of properties became collateral damage.
The chaos in the Middle East is not without design.
Osama bin Laden was taken out in 2011, but the US could not extricate itself from the quagmire of Afghanistan after one and a half decades of fighting. It has already lost its shirt there, barely holding on to the rest of its garments.
All bad guys like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi had to pay with their lives for their contra policies. Saddam became a victim of petro-gas politics. When Donald Trump was asked recently why Iraqi oil was not seized by the US, he said that they would get another opportunity to do so. Gaddafi was planning to make gold a reserve currency, a position held by the almighty dollar. Morsi was unacceptable for his pro-Islamic views and had to be dumped. It is wrongly suggested that Bashar al-Assad got himself and his country in trouble because of the spillover from the Arab Spring. He had to pay for opposing the Western plan for the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through his country.
The Arab Spring quickly turned into an ‘Arab winter’. The chaos in the Middle East is not without design. Friedman said frankly, “The United States does not need to win wars. It needs simply to disrupt things so that the other side cannot build up sufficient strength to challenge it.” The Middle East has been successfully disrupted. Turkey is next on the agenda, the seventh biggest economy in the world. A superpower must have one enemy at all times. After the disappearance of the Soviet Union, now it is the Muslim world. President Trump has put it on top of his agenda.
Campaigning on the slogan of Islamophobia far-right parties have gained strength in Europe. They may or may not win the upcoming elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands, but their appeal is so strong that centre-right parties in Europe are veering more towards the right.
A new dawn is breaking. It is not the Homeric child of morning, the rosy-fingered dawn. It is a morning of anger. Protectionist walls are rising once again, leading to trade wars. Muslims have been stereotyped. Torture has become state policy. The concept of one world had a short life. Nationhood, religions and skin pigments are shaping attitudes. The world will see more conflicts, strife and loss of balance.
Trump has slapped a ban on the entry to the US of citizens from seven Muslim countries. Pakistan appears to be on the watch list and may soon find itself a place on the aforementioned list. Trump’s venom has not dried up. More bile will be flowing from him. It is a moment shameful for the US and disgraceful to Muslims. How should the affected countries respond? Weak and individual responses will not put sense in Trump’s head. They should get together and send a uniform, befitting response to his villainy. Their strength will lie in unity.
The writer is a former civil servant and minister.
Published in Dawn February 2nd, 2017