An Era of “Perpetual Peace”

By Misbah U. Azam, Ph.D.

Perpetual peace

Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher of 18th-19th century, who is considered the central figure of the branch of philosophy that originated in Western Europe during the 17th century – the modern philosophy — and is now common worldwide. He was one of the earliest proponents of the theory that the “perpetual peace” could be achieved through universal democracy and international cooperation. The international cooperation – in my opinion – is the present time, which is somewhat analogous to the concept of information age and globalization where almost everyone has cheap and easy access to technology which enables one, at his/her will, to hear and communicate with every acquaintance and even with those who are total strangers. However, the history suggests otherwise. The world witnessed continuous and growing conflicts even in this electronic age. The First World War, which gobbled 17 million people, the Second World War, where over 60 million lives — which was the 3% of the world population in 1940, (2.3 billion) – were perished, the formation of Iron Curtain, the Korean War, the rise of the Berlin Wall in 1960s, decades long Vietnam War, proxy wars between the West and the Soviet Empire in South America, Eastern Europe and in Afghanistan. The conclusion of Afghan War modified the fault lines and changed the warring parties. The West found new allies from the fragmented Soviet Empire and it found itself in a bloody conflict with those who were its staunchest comrades during war against the Soviet Union and even were equated with the Fathers of the Nation. The incident of 9/11 — which was planned and executed by the same people who were projected as “heroes” during the fight against the “Evil Empire” — turned out to be the watershed event, when the new fault lines were very clearly marked. The conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and other parts of the globe, force people to believe that the world is heading to the age of growing wars and stronger segregation. The globalization and the telecommunication tools, only added to more problems instead of helping to resolve.
The first Afghan War (1979 – 1986) – although brought the Soviet Empire to its knees – caused severe destabilization in Afghanistan. The main planers of that war against Soviets, lost interest in the region and walked away after the retreat of Soviet Armies, and left the boiling pot to further boil. Finally it exploded on the world’s face in the form of 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Bush Administration’s obsession to go to Iraq to “destroy Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction” created another destabilization, and this time, in Iraq. The lawless country became the most alluring training ground for the Jihadis all over the world. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, recently in a TV interview confessed and finally apologized for the Iraq war and in so many words he admitted that the War in Iraq (2003) could be partly to blame for the rise of Daesh. “Because even though he [Saddam Hussain] had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people against others, the chemical weapon program in the form we thought it was, did not exist in the way that we thought. So I can apologize for that. I can also apologize, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you had removed the regime”, said Tony Blair in his interview on CNN. When Blair was confronted and cornered with the question that, “was the Iraq War ‘the principal cause’ of the rise of Daesh”, he replied, “I think there are elements of truth in that. Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”
The problem of oligarchies, monarchies and the dictatorships is that only small contingent of people make decisions and they simply don’t care about the masses. The democratic system has its own weakness. In democracies, although the decision makers have to face opposition, but the policies are negotiated with dissenting voices like a business deal. The public opinion is built by controlling and influencing the mass media, and consequently, millions are convinced and brought together to support the decisions taken by the elected leadership. Those decisions could be proven disastrous in the long run, like it happened when Bush administration made the case to go to war with Iraq by telling the half truth, providing monetary benefits to some Middle Eastern and NATO countries to form the “Coalition of Willings” and got the help from the war cheerleaders in the mass media who built the public opinion in the masses in favor of Iraq War.
What Kant theorized over a century ago, did not happen, instead, the situation on the ground turned out even more detrimental. With democracy, information technology and the availability of other gadgets which help to get easy access to communications and information, the world is moving towards unending wars, feuds and strife against the non-state actors. In the conflict zones, the “war economies” are built, which are run by the war lords who cannot afford to stop and lose the leverage they have over millions. I am always a supporter – and I wrote — of a ruthless military action against the terrorist organizations in Pakistan to eradicate the menace of terror from Pakistan. To deal Daesh, there are two ways in the post 13/11 attacks (on Paris). The easy one is to start lethal propaganda against Islam, scrutinize Quran’s every single verse to prove that Islam – as a belief – is a problem and put every single Muslim – who do not control those religious bigots anyway, and in reality they are the biggest victims of the so called “Jihadi” terrorism all over the world – on the defensive, creating fault lines between the believers of Islam and the world and aggravate the problem even further. Then the other way – which is the right way but unfortunately a difficult one – is to join hands and stand together to deal with terrorism based on any religion and destroy their mother ship before they spread all over the world like virus and become a formidable force.
Pakistan’s famous Islamabad based journalist and public intellectual, Ejaz Haider, wrote in his article, “Perpetual Conflict”, published in Newsweek, on June 30, 2014:
“….we have entered an era of perpetual conflict. That denotes a long, simmering war with its crescendos and diminuendos, long spells of conflict interspersed with interregnums of faux peace.”
“….the perpetuity of conflict does not mean a single, linear war. Its nature is and will be non-linear both in terms of its various battles as well as the means employed by state and non-state actors to wage it. Innovations, new technologies, new measures and new countermeasures will be the hallmark of this conflict. Battles will be fought in physical and virtual spaces and its zone will not be confined in spatio-temporal terms, cut as it will across national boundaries.”
“…..its spread will rely on and employ the same tools of globalization which is underpinned by the communications revolution and which has provided us with gadgets that we seem to think have made our lives so much better. That’s the paradox. The world, if it is flat, is flat not just for doing legit business but also for generating violence.”
If the world is regarded as a village, the countries as dwellings then the residents of those dwellings are living in the highly unruly and lawless neighborhood. The real question is – which is partly the base of conflicts — is, “what is a fair share?” From the formulation point of view it’s rather simple question and the answer is also simple, however, in the global village the fair share is something which is defined by the powerful and resourceful entities, who draw the line between how much is their part and how much is for others. This is not just current day phenomena, it is happening for thousands of years and it will happen for coming millenniums. I don’t say that all is wrong in the world and some force should come and fix everything because I am not an idealist. I believe that there are lots of things are good and it’s a duty of every human being to contribute for the betterment inside his/her limits. My argument here is that expecting and hoping that one day there will be an era of “perpetual peace and harmony” is simply the state of “perpetual dream”. History teaches us that people with power always create fault lines and engage in the conflict. It happened before, it’s happening now and it will be happening until the Doom’s Day. Today, once the terrorism problem would under control, new fault lines will emerge, and then once again, today’s foes will become allies, and today’s coadjutors will turn adversaries for tomorrow.