The Absurdity of Ideological Radicalism

Source: youthlinemedia,org – EPA/NOAH BERGER

As I continue to age, I have learned something very important about politics. A lot of our ridiculous, unwavering, uncompromising political positions come out of ignorance and being completely out of touch.

This is something that has made me appreciate people evolving politically over the years and that is why changing parties is not such a cardinal sin in my eyes.

I cannot possibly even come close to talking down to anyone reading these lines as I have held many of these extreme positions in the past myself, and possibly I am also holding quite a few at this point in time. It is easy to dismiss your rival political position as ignorant and condemn your opponents as unintelligent and immoral, but as we go closer, the many shades of gray reveal themselves out of the black and white.

My absolute ignorance of the legalized trophy hunting economics helped me realize how a distant observer fails to see its contribution. Even though I still morally oppose hunting wildlife. However, a trip to Gilgit-Baltistan and speaking to the WWF officials who facilitate legal trophy hunting in the area would shed light on how the local communities benefit from it. And how the activity helps preserve certain species, contrary to the impression of the knee-jerk activist. You just can’t ignore the facts.

I have only recently become more appreciative of military interventionism of the United States, despite obvious disasters such as the Vietnam War and the 2003 Iraq War. And even bypassing the United Nations Security Council in some cases because in humanitarian disasters such as Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, and Mosul, when engaging with bureaucracy and particularly the Chinese and Russian votes at the Security Council could cost lives. At the same time, I can tell what a disaster being a blind hawk with neighbors such as India and Afghanistan can prove to be in an underdeveloped region constantly under the threat of a nuclear accident and in desperate need of free trade. And this by no means implies that cutting defense budgets would be any wiser.

I have learned over the years through the wisdom of my friends and by trying to stand in the shoes of struggling families, despite having a similar background, that safety nets matter. I have learned that you don’t exactly run a government like a business and oftentimes debt and stimulus are a necessity for economic sustenance. It cannot be emphasized how vital quality public education with critical reasoning is and how necessary an effective healthcare system is to the people. However, it is also important to recognize how the private sector can add value to both these spheres of social economy, especially medical research.

Flying routes that nobody else would fly has offered me an insight that perhaps having a national flag carrier is not a bad idea after all. But I do not have any doubts about private professionals managing it in a much more efficient manner. And that it is important to raise the alarm when far right partisans make efforts to either privatize or liquidate necessary government services such as public libraries and prisons. At the same time realizing that privatization of certain corporations unrelated to the government would be a better idea, as in the case of power supply companies and other for-profit corporations. I have also come to appreciate how arts and media education require close financial and promotional patronage from the government to thrive. Believe me, artists earn it.

It is important to weigh the facts of the world before becoming a Marxist revolutionary or a Libertarian anarcho-capitalist troll supporting the gold standard. Before completely condemning capitalism and the current global financial system as pure evil, we must consider the global prosperity and the technological advancement this economic model has brought about. It has made the rich richer alright but has significantly improved freedom of access and quality of life for more people than ever before. At the same time, we must never drop our watch of the shady practices in the business and industrial world and make all the strict measures and regulations to protect the environment, the consumer and the workforce rights.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world that is far more complex than any ideology could possibly encompass. There is little use in investing ourselves in radical ideas and extremes so much that our idealism and passion turn into venomous cynicism and defeatism. College students are particularly prone to nonsense in their earlier years of high passion and idealism. While time corrects your course over the years, a consideration of more pragmatic options over what makes you feel good could always lead to a balanced and more productive worldview. And above all, cements your faith in democracy.

We need to see through ideological radicalism for its absurdity. This might help us build more bridges between people while getting things done.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Why Pakistan Must Stand Up Against ISIS

Source: ISPR/Dawn

Source: ISPR/Dawn

Just when you thought that the Obama administration is going to forsake the Middle East at the mercy of the menacingly destructive ISIS, there is finally a little ray of hope. According to a news report, the recent trip of the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice to Pakistan involved discussion of building an alliance against the Islamic State. In other words, the United States would be asking Pakistan’s help to deal with the situation, though it’s still wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, this offers Pakistan yet another opportunity to lead the world by example in fighting terrorism, as was the case in the global war against Islamist terrorism following 9/11. As a matter of fact, international military action against ISIS is far overdue. The silence of the UN Security Council on the matter has been shameful to say the least. Only Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan have retaliated weakly to the Islamic State, and that too, when their own borders and soldiers were threatened.

If Pakistan does respond to the call of the United States to join such a coalition, it would only be fulfilling its duty as a responsible member of the international community. No other country of the world should be an exception. As a matter of fact, all capable powers around the world should rise up to the challenge of ISIS.

There are a lot of people around the world who are blaming the Obama administration for being indirectly responsible for the current situation in Iraq and Syria. The Obama Administration with its half measures to depose Assad has helped turning Syria into a mass graveyard, and as the indirect consequence of which, ISIS has captured large parts of both Iraq and Syria, establishing its own state.

However, the most painful part of this story remains to be how the world has treated the Kurds. The 2003 Iraq War had finally given the Kurds an opportunity to found an independent state after decades of struggle and oppression by at least three major powers in the region. Even today, Kurds are still surrounded by enemies, with the worst of them all, ISIS, is barely being kept at bay by the Peshmarga. However, they cannot help but feel betrayed by their Western liberators, as their hopes of independence are in jeopardy again. Helping them, especially the Yazidi population, is almost a moral duty.

ISIS is slaughtering innocent civilians and is destroying the cultural heritage of the Middle East. It is simply a shame that not even a single nation in the world has decided to stand up to this challenge and tackle the growth of ISIS. As a matter of fact, the Iranians and the Syrians have been on the forefront to fight this menace. But this needs to change, if the world wants to see a substantial change in the current situation in the Middle East, which has given rise to probably the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

I know there are a lot of people who would warn against entering another of “America’s wars,” reminding of the wave of terrorist attacks that followed throughout the country. Wars are never without a cost, but staying out of one is not always the more peaceful and safest option. Taking action against ISIS is as important as it was to fight against the Nazi Third Reich. While we mourn the death of Aylan Kurdi, which in all seriousness may or may not have anything to do with the Syrian civil war directly, but it would be even better if we focus our attention to the elements that are destroying the homes of Syrian families, including their dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

The allies must ask themselves why Assad is still in power, and if he is to be tolerated in Damascus, then what is the point of continuing support for the Syrian opposition? And what is the point of fueling this fire from a distance when we know that Putin’s forces are now in Syria. Maybe, they could help offer some help against the IS militants after all.

Does this mean that the anti-Assad powers around the world had a part to play of depriving millions of Syrians of their homes? All this destruction for nothing? It would simply be irresponsible to leave the situation in its current state just because bad intervention had caused the deterioration. Faux doves must be resisted both in the West and in the Muslim majority countries.

But apart from the trouble that Syrian nationals have been facing, we must not forget that ISIS is a real threat to the Pakistani state as well. Evidence has been found of ISIS presence and influence within Pakistan, and the Foreign Office has recognized the group as a threat to the national security.

However, Pakistan is not unique in being threatened by the growth of ISIS. Pretty much every nation in the world that values freedom is feeling threatened by the existence of this group directly or indirectly, especially those close to the Middle East. Considering the inaction of the Sunni Arab states, it is also important to fight ISIS to avoid offering it the privilege and legitimacy of being the de facto force of Sunni resistance against the Iranian Shia political influence, especially in Iraq and Syria.

A lot of people in Pakistan and in other Muslim majority countries like to blame ISIS on the enemies of Islam, by which they are referring to the United States, the EU and the allies such as Israel. Even if that is true, it should give Muslim majority countries and Arab states all the more reason to come together and get rid of this dangerous group that has been effectively demonizing the faith that represents their identity. Of course, Israel must play its part in fighting the ISIS as well.

We should be proud that Pakistan has been the front line state in the war against terrorism after 9/11. We should continue this honorable tradition of eradicating terrorist groups. We have celebrated the valor and sacrifice of our servicemen and women on the Defense day. It is important that we prepare ourselves to take on the threats that are jeopardizing the survival of civilization in the region as we know it at the same time.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Legitimizing the Drone

Source: thenewstribe.com

Source: thenewstribe.com

Would you believe that the drone is a divisive issue? But what isn’t.

A recent Amnesty International report with a rather emotional title was widely hailed by anti-drone activists, and locally by staunch anti-war parties such as the PTI. However, at the same time the report was criticized by people who think the weapon was doing a great job in firing terrorists. The accuracy of the report has also been questioned, although by some who have a history of defending drone strikes.

Obviously, you cannot expect the US government to concede that drones violate international law. However, I believe that when international human rights watchdogs are disapproving of drones and if the UN considers their use a violation of international law, there is no real need to go out of your way to defend the US drone campaign. Amusingly, a lot of commentators have been doing precisely that to justify the US government and military.

This does not mean that they do not have valid reasons to do that. Drone warfare is not any worse than conventional warfare, except for the fact that it is a constant threat looming on the heads of certain civilian populations, where militants are present. I think relatively safer populations cannot understand how a threatened population may see drone strikes.

The usual response to criticism of drones is that jet bombing kills more if not the equal number of people, can be as terrible for the people suffering the bombing and human rights, and that conventional bombing is more erratic than the drones. All these points are valid.

Whoever is opposing drones but advocating jet or artillery fire is not understanding the benefit of the technology. Pakistani nationalists opposing drones because they violate the sovereignty of the country is merely a nationalistic political viewpoint and has nothing to do with the human loss.

Drone technology is superior, indeed. But if the UN and other international and nonpartisan bodies are maintaining that US drone strikes violate international law, there is no sense in persisting with the support of an illegal device of war.

However, this does not mean that the use of this particular technology is condemned, even though it is a violation of people’s privacy and safety in any case. I do not see the reports criticizing drones and the civilian deaths caused by them as an attack on the technology, but one on the political force controlling these drones.

The drone can be legitimized. The US should stop carrying out drone strikes unilaterally and, since the technology is so accurate and helps minimize losses, the United Nations Security Council should be authorizing and supervising drone strikes when and where needed.

This does not necessarily have to require the US giving up the drone technology to the UNSC, but the UN body would only supervise the US strikes, as in UN Peacekeeping Missions. In this way, drone strikes would at least not violate the international law and the instances of possible abuse can be minimized. Critics may question the feasibility of this proposal, but the viewpoint of defending violation of international law is unreasonable.

Maybe all the criticism on the drone strikes is more about the distrust of the invader, instead of the weapon.

It’s not the drone that kills, but the people behind it.

Why United Nations Security Council is the Part of the Problem

Source: cbc.ca

I believe this is pretty much the right time to write about the problem of the United Nations Security Council, though I am sure many such opportunities have come in the past as well. It is just when most of the people in the world are outraged at something that happened at this diplomatic forum and which offers some relief to the writer of being spared of potential accusations of being anti-American, anti-UN or anti-democracy. The criticism in the post has nothing in particular to do with either entities.

Recently, a resolution was presented in the Security Council to support an Arab League plan to facilitate a political transition in Syria, that is, to throw the dictator Bashar Al-Asssad out of power following the brutal action of his regime against civilian protesters. The Syrian government denies the charge of course. Russia and China were the only countries out of the 15 member Security Council that voted against the resolution and vetoed it.

There are perfectly plausible explanations for why Russia and China did that, primarily because of the political influence that Russians enjoy in Syria since the Cold War decades and that both the countries fear a military action on Syria in the future. The rest of the world has been largely critical of the veto. Even Pakistan and India voted in the favor of the resolution, but they usually do so anyway. Not that their opinion matters much. I have overheard on twitter that the Indian ambassador at Damascus has had some explaining to do.

The United Nations Security Council, in its permanent members, denote the truly representative conference-mode diplomacy forum of the world. All the people that matter. But if that statement were true, it would be a pity that countries such as India, Japan, Germany and Brazil are not permanent members, and yes, why leave out Saudi Arabia and Iran? OK, maybe not Saudi Arabia. But as a matter of fact, given the functional practices of the forum, it is imperative that no more members should be added to the permanent-member club. Unless, you want to lessen the political influence of a particular party or make the organization further ineffective. Reminding you that the primary function of the organization is peace-keeping around the world and dealing with security crises.

But apart from the nuts and bolts of the organization, let us reflect on a controversial article of the UN Charter. The power of veto exercised by the permanent members of the Security Council. While the United Nations and the powers of the world, and sadly even the not-so-powers of the world, are perfectly fine with the way the Security Council works, I find it a violation of the very spirit of the UN charter, such as the Article 2. While the United Nations Security Council works perfectly on the principles of politics, for you cannot complain as you were taught “Might is Right” in elementary school, but I am not sure if such provisions for a UN organization is even compatible with the United Nations Charter, which holds every nation to be sovereign equals.

Legally it would be, but does that make any sense on the basis of the principles on which the United Nations was created? Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for the United Nations, which is precisely why I am raising this point because it is we who have to make the United Nations work. The point simply is that there should be one vote for one nation. That is equality and that is justice. If you want to make the United Nations work on the brutal principles of Machiavellian politics, then I support the veto vote all out, but if you talk about human rights, then I am not sure how that helps the cause.

But despite everything, why in the world are there permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in the first place and why are there just five of them? Why just United States, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia? I guess every nation that asks the question that it should become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council is rightful in asking that. It is just that not every nation in asking that question. We all know why these particularly countries are permanent members and not others, but the point is why everyone else accepts that.

The United States, the greatest donor and one of the architects of the United Nations, has been critical of China and Russia and probably rightly so. Ambassador Rice expressed her disgust over the veto. While China and Russia are wrong, they are not doing anything different to what the United States has been doing in the past. Protecting their interests over human rights. Hardly any major power is an exception to this case.

May I remind the readers of this post that United States was the only country that shamelessly defended the brutal onslaught of the Israeli armed forces on the Gaza Strip in 2006, voted against the new Israeli settlements in 2011 and has vetoed several other times. Actually, I acknowledge and support the right of the United States to prevent any UN Resolutions from passing against Israel that undermine its right to defend itself, but then I would expect the United States to remain consistent and make human rights a priority everywhere, no matter who the offending party is. If they are truly upset about the Russian and Chinese veto, I hope the United States will never veto a UN Security Council Resolution ever again.

I am disgusted to hear politicians complaining about human rights violations when they make them happen everyday and support it but I would not mind if a few of them prevent a few human rights violations in selected parts of the world. Therefore, I would like to see either the United Nations Security Council abolished with its current structure or at least a reform to the way it works. At least, the veto powers should be repealed and voting on issues should be carried out in the United Nations General Assembly where every nation will have its say and every nation will have 1 vote. For those who think this will harm the instant action problem as in the League of Nations, simply take action with a majority or a two-third majority vote.

Keep the United Nations Security Council like the way it is and more people will lose faith in the United Nations everyday.

Thankfully, I will never be one of them.