As I write, a new war with weapons fired from remote locations, and from military aircraft is raining down on military convoys and command and control locations in Libya. This is the fourth conflict in twenty years when modern warfare with the use of updated technology is being tried in the world. Remote controlled missiles are hitting command and control, and military locations in Libya. Pulverizing military technology that creates long term and lasting hazards for human life, human society, and the natural world have been used in Iraq, in Bosnia, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now in Libya.
These places have several things in common. They share varying dimensions of Islamic, African, Central/South Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures. More importantly they share a penchant for patriarchal backwardness. Patriarchy promoted through historical cultural influences which, over time have overtaken the human values of equality, fairness, and the promotion of social justice inherent in the original teachings of Islam and Christianity. Having walked away from the founding values of Islam and Christianity, the teachings and consciousness of the meaning of religion as a meeting point of minds to search for solutions and find common ground gave way to greed. Greed defines the destiny of these societies today. Each country in this region has inherited designated leaders, leaders who present themselves as though they have god given right to lead these societies. The end result is autocratic, patriarchal and pseudo-religious, and corrupt governments and ruling elites which have nationalized the political and economic space. As a consequence all political power and control over the wealth of some countries of the Arab world, the Middle East, Central/South Asia, and Africa since the end of colonial rule has resided within the sway of these leaders, their immediate families, their cronies, and the military and security brass.
The ruling elites of these countries have entrenched themselves in power through diplomatic, technological, technical, and military support from the former colonial masters, multinational corporations and big oil, and cold war relationships with powerful families and business interests in the developed Western nations and in Russia.
Since 1980 the net of relations between the undemocratic ruling elites of these countries with their counterparts abroad has been widening. New countries are now competing for the attention of the powerful in these countries and for the resources of this region. Emerging powers such as China and India have been playing an increasing role in these theatres because of the land mass available for agricultural recolonization, and because of the rich oil and mineral resources of this region. We are in the midst of the expansion of the alliance between the autocratic rural class at home and foreign business interests. This expansion has exacerbated the already fragile economic and political divide and vacuum in these societies. The upheavals witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia, in Iran, and now in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, and Palestine is directly connected to the sharp political and economic division between a small group at the top of the food chain and the majority of commoners at the bottom of the society. The demonstrations of Tahrir have shown that the commoners of these societies include professionals, doctors, lawyers, religious people, men, women youth, the poor, the disabled and the infirm, and all those who have been denied their rights to decide on the kind of law which should govern the society, and under which everyone would be able to organize for equity in the political, social, cultural and economic life of their homeland.
In an age baptized by the rise of western style democracies, the West is seemingly duty bound to act. The West has been caught as the saying goes, ‘with their pants down.’ They have to act. They cannot remain silent. They have to the listen to the clarion call for democracy now ringing in the houses of their friends, and in the houses of their enemies. Hence, while the international community appears to have had no appetite for this war, they are acting, as though it is their duty.
The world is now paying close attention. The spotlight is now on the powerful countries, especially since the international community failed to act to prevent the genocide in Rwanda and to deal with the claims of genocide in Darfur; their failure to rein in the Israelis and to address the plight of the Palestinians in spite of scores of United Nations resolutions; their failure to properly address the racial and ethnic structural marginalization that today account for racial and ethnic conflicts especially in Africa, more especially in South Africa and Zimbabwe; in effect the failure to deal with the question of reparations, and the economic and political divide constructed by colonialism between people based on the colour line.
The current military campaign in Libya raises many unanswered questions on the necessity for even-handedness on the part of those with the policing wherewithal in the international community. Judging from the swiftness of the ongoing military campaign in Libya, are we to assume that the world is now entering a new phase in international relations?
If so, the UN and the international community have a responsibility to level with all the countries and peoples of the world. If military action is going to become the remedy for the intractable problems created through undemocratic political structures, this must be made clear. It should not only be the subject of debate at the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. It should be the subject for debate, ratification, and signature by the parliament and national representative councils of every member nation of the UN. Perhaps the world needs a United Nations with teeth. But such a UN with military authority should be subject to checks and balances normal in a democracy.
If the current military actions in Libya are representative of the beginnings of a new process, the world could become a better place. In the same way that the UN and the international community stepped in to ensure that the people of Benghazi were not slaughtered, such action is also required in many other places. The Palestinians have been living in a virtual prison for more than fifty years. Are we to assume that the UN and the international community will now act to rein in the excesses of the Israeli military and other paramilitary forces and bring real relief to the suffering Palestinians? Are we to assume that the UN and the international community will now take a strong position and initiate action against the minority government in Bahrain? Are we to assume that stern action will also be taken soon against the military excesses of the Saleh government in Yemen, that gunned down 56 people a couple of days ago?
Are we to expect immediate action against the Laurent Gbagbo administration in the Ivory Coast, now holding onto power illegally? The world is engaged. The world is waiting and watching to see what actions will be taken against other outlaws. Gaddafi is one among many.