VIEW: Save our civilisation —Ishaque Malik - Friday, April 15, 2011

A global culture of universally acceptable values is surfacing. Educated young new generation of the world shares the same ideals of peace, democracy and prosperity irrespective of their being Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist

Out there are voices, not so shrill luckily, urging the US and its European allies to fulfill their ‘responsibility’ in Libyan debacle by responding through more direct military means. The Western NATO allies have already imposed a no-fly zone over Libya. The supportive argument is hackneyed: to protect humanity and promote democratic ideals. Sadly, such hawkish advice is less rational and more a jingoistic product of megalomania and betrays myopic insensitivity to the realities on ground.

The US adventures in the Muslim world in the recent history have only helped alienate 1.5 billion Muslims from the West making the world more unsafe. How could there be a justification for thousands of innocent civilian killings in Iraq when not a single evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the most trumpeted argument for invasion, could be produced. Thousands more were killed or left to languish in the most inhumane investigation camps in a quest to hunt down a band of ‘damned terrorists’ and their leader in Afghanistan. Neither the most sought after villain nor any tangible number of his main protégés could be nabbed to this day in support of a massive invasion, which claimed thousand innocent Muslims’ lives. Countless are dying everyday in the neighbouring Pakistan through direct or indirect US military actions.

If the purpose of Iraqi Invasion was to defuse the perceived arsenal nuisance of the Iraqi dictator, a small-scale surgical operation under the mandate of the UN could have better served the purpose. There could have been even other better ways to achieve this end without huge civilian casualties and occupation of that country resulting in extreme antagonism in the Muslim world. Similarly, hunting down of al Qaeda apparatus in Afghanistan could have been better achieved through covert action precisely pursuing the targets without costing innumerable innocent lives, which incurred the wrath of millions across the globe. Rampant power, alas, knows no reason. It has its own unintelligible dynamics.

The recent upsurge of anti-authoritarian waves in the Arab world also portends ominous forebodings for the US. So far, they did not have to deal with the public passion that was against them; they instead had to pamper legitimacy-shorn dictators who always looked outside for strength to perpetuate their authoritarian rules. That order appears to be crumbling now. Imagine if public aspirations are reflected in their regimes in the Muslim world? Just think if the public scorn against the US is translated into official policy through introduction of democracy in the Muslim countries? It may not remain confined to the Muslim world only. The 1.2 billion strong India with the second highest Muslim population in the world is bound to take into account feelings of its 200 million Muslim population. Another 1.5 billion Chinese are hardly seen to be happy with the US. So, what if all anti-US forces configure together? Are we not heading towards cataclysm?

More than morality, under challenge is the law, which can indisputably be described as the greatest collective human achievement whose respect is the only hope for our civilisation. The hawks that prodded the US administration to get inside Libya are linking the right of sovereignty of the nations to the ‘good conduct’ of their governments, in fact, of some individuals. Very wise of them but devil may cite scriptures for his own cause. Would this not serve as a perfect argument for any unscrupulous group, what to say of government, to trample over others’ freedom? Then how and who will decide what is ‘good conduct’? Finally, why state sovereignty be jeopardised for actions of a few individuals? Should we not seek better options?

Globalisation has increased the nations’ interdependence manifold. Ease of communication and free flow of talents has necessitated large-scale unnoticed migrations. A global culture of universally acceptable values is surfacing. Educated young new generation of the world shares the same ideals of peace, democracy and prosperity irrespective of their being Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or atheist. Herein lies the hope for tomorrow which must not be shattered by again dividing our small global village into blocs of heroes and villains.

If somebody perceives any global leadership role for the US, it could be pursued by caring and not by killing. Love begets love. Hatred and firearms could ensure only mutual destruction. 9/11 had made only US citizens insecure; a decade later the entire humanity is insecure. Any incident now could prove to the proverbial last straw that would sink the ship of our civilisation. Let sanity prevail and Libya not become that last straw.

The writer is a student at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at

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