Imtiaz Rafi Butt
IT was 28th June, 1914 when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne, triggered the first global war. What followed was nothing short of a species-level catastrophe. 70 million soldiers took part in the war and by the end 1918; almost 6 million people had died while even a larger number were left homeless as refugees and poverty-struck as a consequence. President Woodrow Wilson of the United States referred to World War I as the war to end all wars, it ended noting. Human ambition and the will to destroy continue to find glory in the agonizing fires of war and conflict.
The story of present times is that of collective failure for mankind. Countries from the North to the South, rich to the poor and strong to the weak are wrapped in fear of war and impending violence. The spread of terrorism is a result of inability of states to resolve geopolitical disputes. Failing states become a breeding ground for violence and radicalization which eventually leads to armed conflict. These conflicts put negative pressure on the systems of welfare and progress which feeds the cycle of poverty and violence furthermore. The refugee problem today is one the greatest challenges today and still remains unresolved. The United Nations financial dependence on powerful and developed countries of the West makes it party to the process of conflict instead of being a neutral mediator with proper influence.
Europe and United States of America seem to be struggling with their own demons of fear, isolation and probability of conflict. The election campaign from Donald Trump was accelerated by the slogan “America First”. This implies that America will longer be a stabilizing factor in the world politics but an aggressive player bent on twisting and turning the geopolitical scenario in its favor with sheer force. After the disaster of Vietnam, the failure of the international community in conflicts of Rwanda and the Iraq war, Washington became a voice for stabilization and development. All that is set to change as the Trump administration has already instigated a strategy of aggressive unilateral intervention such as the Mother of All Bomb strike in Afghanistan and the bombing of the Syrian Air base without any dialogue with the stakeholders involved. Europe is also apprehensive of the Trump administration. Angela Merkel, in her address last week, reiterated that the world cannot afford another arms race; this was one day after her much expected rendezvous with Donald Trump. On the other hand, Europe is observing a rise in nationalism and isolation.
Brexit marked the beginning of the end for the European project. After Britain, countries like France, Germany, Greece and Spain have already confirmed a vote whether the European Union is to continue or otherwise. For decades, it was the fair-minded and healthy voice of Europe that upheld anti-war sentiments and human rights in the United Nations. Furthermore, the aid and funding to the most impoverished nations is also expected to decline. The influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan is adding to the problem. Already, there is growing resentment in Europe against acceptance of refugees. Political campaigns are capitalizing on promotion of nationalist agendas instead of humanitarian concerns. Far reaching effects will be felt over this in the Middle East.
Among all the conflicts of the world, Middle East can certainly be referred to as the frontline. The decades old rivalry between Iran and the Gulf countries is now being augmented with polarization of world super powers. Saudi led military coalitions are being supported by the Americans against Syrian Government whereas Iran and Russia are actively supporting Bashar ul Assad. It is ironic that it was an unprovoked war in Iraq that ultimately lead to the formation of ISIS. The world is not coming to terms with the fact that wars destroy states and failed states become breeding grounds for terrorism activities. For every insurgency and terrorist organization, there is a conflict in the background.
The Taliban were born as a result of the proxy war between Soviet Russia and the United States while ISIS was born out of the Iraq war of 2003. Instead of addressing the root cause of the contention, there is active pursuance of geopolitical objectives seeking sides instead of end to the conflict. The Trump administration is considering abrogating the Iran accord replacing long term peace measures with immediate and hostile diplomacy.
There are some efforts to improve ties with Russia by Donald Trump but it cannot last without both powers being on the same page in Syria. After 6 years of bitter fighting, almost 500, 000 people have already been killed. The war against ISIS has not end in sight while the refugee problem in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan continues to escalate. There is no long term strategy with any international organization or country which is aimed at addressing these grievous dilemmas in the long run.
Apart from the above, there are other conflicts that have the potential to intensify at any point in time due to fallout of regional conflicts. Pakistan and India, both nuclear armed nations, have locked horns in Kashmir with no roadmap to peace and stability. North Korea continues to threaten Japan and the United States presence in Asia with ballistic warfare. African countries are headed in a downward spiral towards political upheavals and prospect of insurgency and terrorism set to the transform numerous countries into battlefield similar to the Middle East. 2017 is certainly a time of conflict and pain for humanity. The need of hour is to unite from a position of strength. The strategy of non-interference along with the peaceful progress model is to be enacted in order to put an end to arms race and militancy.
The Chinese government is expanding its horizons through mega projects. China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the One Belt One Road project are aimed at exponential growth in trade and commerce in collaboration with Pakistan. It is an opportunity for regional politics to write a new chapter in regional cooperation. Pakistan can benefit from such an arrangement. Globalization is a fact today, we are all connected. All of us are children of the same tribe, if these conflicts across the world are not resolved, they will ripple to every corner of the world and to our future generations.